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Divorce Refuser Extradited From US Gives Divorce

Man who fled to US leaving his wife an aguna and brought back in first of its kind extradition frees wife with divorce.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 1/8/2014, 1:15 PM

Divorce (illustration)
Divorce (illustration)
Thinkstock

A Bnei Brak man who was brought back to Israel two weeks ago from the US, where he had fled after refusing to divorce his wife, recently relented and gave his wife the divorce decree, or 'get'. The extradition from the US was the first of its kind, and followed long negotiations.

The wife, who had been left as an agunah (literally "chained woman") when her husband refused to free her from marriage obligations, received the divorce Sunday following extended pressure from the Rabbinical Court, threatening the man with prison if he didn't grant the divorce.

She noted that following the extradition, the court initially put him under house arrest with an electronic handcuff, raising fears that he might flee again. However, the Rabbinical Court fought to help her using a private investigator and police cooperation, and succeeded in having the man arrested.

"When I arrived at the Rabbinical Court I didn't believe that he would agree to give me a divorce, I was certain it would take a lot more time," related the divorcee.

Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, manager of the Rabbinical Court's Agunot Branch, praised the development, saying "the message to husbands refusing a divorce is clear: you have nowhere to run, the Agunot Branch will reach you anywhere in the world."

Complicating the case is the fact the man was accused of pedophilia during prior divorce proceedings, as the wife alleges that he had been having a secret forced relationship with her sister, still a minor, and was sexually abusing their young son, reports Yisrael Hayom. The man's version of events was not provided, nor was it noted if he was charged for the alleged crimes.

The newly divorced woman recounted her experiences during the "almost 3 and a half years since this long process began," noting that Rabbi Maimon "took pains to update me at every stage."

The woman claims that during discussions with the Rabbinical Court as they tried to force the man to grant the divorce, he adamantly refused. In the end, she reports that he broke down and conceded.

"This is a classic case of someone who could have ended matters respectably without causing damage to himself and his family," remarked Rabbi Maimon. "He chose a different path, by which he also gave a get in the end, also sat in jail, and will be tried for his acts, too."

A Rabbinical Court survey in 2007 determined that there were about 370 get refusers in Israel, slightly more than half of them women. Figures from 2012 found that 163 refusees had received divorces, compared with 97 in 2011. Sanctions against get refusers also rose in 2012, as 60 sanction verdicts were granted in 2012 as compared with 41 in the previous year.