The High Court ruled Monday that rabbinical courts have the authority to place sanctions and penalize those who try to entice husbands not to grant a get(divorce document) to their wives. The ruling came in the wake of a Rabbinical Court ruling issued regarding a haredi American businessman who is accused of persuading his son not to grant a get for over ten years.
Jewish law maintains that if a husband does not grant his wife a divorce, she remains a "bound" woman and is not allowed to marry any other man. In the particular case adjudicated, the woman suffered a stroke after her marriage and became disabled. Due to her medical condition, her husband abandoned her together with two small children in Israel and escaped to America, leaving her a "bound" woman.
The Rabbinical Court ruling described the case as "one of the most difficult cases of a "bound" woman faced by the courts at present. The court issued a restraining order against the grandfather and sentenced him to 30 days in jail. He petitioned the High Court but his petition was rejected.
In their ruling, High Court Chief Judge Miriam Naor, Deputy Chief Judge Elyakim Rubinstein and judge Hanan Meltzer said that the Rabbinical Court had the authority to place sanctions on the father. Additionally they wrote that the court has authority to place sanctions on a third party if it becomes apparent that he is the cause of the violation of their ruling.
In this case, stated the court, the court was allowed to place sanctions on the father of the person refusing to divorce after it was proved that he was behind the refusal.
The court emphasized that since "new proofs" had been brought by the defense lawyers, the case would be returned to the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court to verify their authenticity. However the court also stated that "if the father would be found to be the one causing the [divorce refusal] based on the present evidence submitted, it would be within the authority of the Rabbinic Court to place sanctions on him.
Rabbinical Courts Director Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi welcomed the decision and said "I am happy that the High Court judges proved the justice of our determined fight against divorce refusers. The ruling is a strong public statement against the refusers and those who support their refusal [to grant a get] that even by offering their support they risk being penalized by law."