‘Israel will not be a haven for divorce deniers,’ says religious affairs minister

Legislation seeks to close loophole that allows recalcitrant husbands from abroad to leave their wives “chained,” Israel Hayom reports.

By World Israel News Staff

Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana was due on Sunday to introduce legislation to the Knesset addressing a growing problem: men fleeing to Israel to avoid divorcing their wives.

According to Jewish law, a woman is free to remarry only after she receives a get, or divorce document. Some men have refused to give their wives a get, either out of spite or in the hope of extorting a more favorable divorce settlement. A woman stuck in such a situation has the status of an agunah, which means chained.

Israeli men can be prosecuted for refusing to divorce their wives. But recalcitrant husbands from abroad were able flee to Israel because local authorities in those communities could not prosecute people who were not Israeli citizens, according to an Israel Hayom report Sunday.

In 2018, the Knessset gave local rabbinical courts temporary authority to address divorce cases among foreign nationals, with judgements being enforced by prosecutors. With that three-year arrangement due to expire, Kahana’s bill would make it permanent.

“Israel will not be a haven for divorce refusers,” Kahana told Israel Hayom. “The temporary grant proved to be a valuable tool against get-refusers … Therefore, I made the decision to bring it into permanent legislation. The issue of divorce refusal requires in-depth attention and I intend on making sure that the government does its utmost to bring about solutions.”

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Israeli authorities took high-profile measures on behalf of agunot in two separate cases in June.

In one case, an agunah of 16 years received her divorce after the rabbinical courts as well as the High Court of Justice ruled in the woman’s favor. The woman’s father-in-law, who was deemed a key obstruction to the divorce, was fined and barred from leaving Israel until the divorce was settled.

In another case, a Jerusalem rabbinical court issued a landmark ruling that a lawyer who prevents the giving of a get or harms divorce proceedings could be sanctioned. In that case, a man who was preparing to divorce his wife told the rabbinical court his attorney had advised him to withhold the get for a better financial settlement.