Israeli Ultra-Orthodox parents arrested for trying to marry off 14-year-old daughter

The ultra-Orthodox mother said, “I know a lot of girls who got married at 15” despite Israeli law stipulating  an 18 year age minimum.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Police in Jerusalem arrested the ultra-Orthodox parents of a 14-year-old bride moments before they were about to marry her off to a 24-year-old man, Channel 12 reported Wednesday.

Under Israeli law a woman must be 18 in order to be married unless special exemption has been obtained, but the mother said she did not understand what the fuss was about.

“The girl was mature in her soul – that’s what matters,” the mother told Channel 12. “She has a very great mental maturity. She’s not like a 14-year-old girl as I remember myself at 14 and a half, when my head was completely in other things.”

“What has age got to do with the wedding? She is an adult,” the mother said, adding that she wouldn’t consider marrying her daughter off “to another child.”

“Someone suitable for her is an adult,” the mother added. “Someone who can support her, someone who will have a shoulder to lean on.”

In 2013 the Knesset passed the Marriage Age Law that raised the minimum legal age for marriage from 17 to 18. However, the law allows marriages for girls who have reached the age of 16 “in exceptional circumstances” only after approval by a Family Court judge who has received a petition from the family of the bride along with a report by a court-appointed social worker and has interviewed the prospective bride.

Police learned about the intentions of the ultra-Orthodox family from Jerusalem and stopped the wedding at the last minute, taking the parents into custody. A court ordered the release of the parents to house arrest, with the mother claiming she did not know about the law prohibiting underage marriage.

“I did not know it was like a person stealing or like a murderer that he is harming someone,” the mother said. “I know a lot of girls who got married at 15. It happens a lot with us, there are a lot of girls who are ready for it.”

Social welfare officers removed the daughter from the home and the parents are demanding their daughter’s return.

“I want them to bring my daughter home. I do not want children in this form of injustice to be taken away from their home,” the mother said.

The lawyer representing the parents, Hila Yehezkel, said the parents now understand that the marriage of a minor is against the law and have internalized the need to take care of her without marrying her off yet, “and so it will be,” Yehezkel added.

According to the website girlsnotbrides.org, a Knesset report in 2016 found there were 716 child marriages that took place in Israel between 2014 and 2015 before the new law came into effect, but only 37 of those cases were investigated by officials.