Divorce (illustration)
Divorce (illustration)Thinkstock

In an unusual act of cooperation, the US last Friday extradited to Israel a man who had fled there after refusing to divorce his wife, leaving her still obligated to the marriage under Jewish law in the difficult position of agunah (literally "chained woman").

The extradition was the first of its kind, and came in a case involving particular shocking accusations.

During divorce proceedings after the couple from Bnei Brak's marriage fell apart, the wife allegedly discovered that her husband had been having a secret relationship with her sister, who was still a minor, and further was sexually abusing their young son, reports Yisrael Hayom.

In light of the revelations, the husband was accused of pedophilia, and promptly escaped to the US despite a stay of exit order filed against him.

It must be noted that the man's version of events was not provided, nor did the report say whether he was charged for the alleged crimes.

After he fled, the wife was consequently left as an agunah, unable to remarry.

A private investigator hired by the Rabbinical Court's Agunot Branch was able to track the man down, although he refused all efforts to convince him to return to Israel and give his wife a "get" (divorce).

Left with no other options, Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, manager of the Agunot Branch, requested that the Justice Department's International Division deal with securing the man's extradition. The extradition was achieved after long negotiations with the US.

"The long arm of the Rabbinical Court will reach every place in the world and bring relief to agunot women," declared Rabbi Maimon.

A Rabbinical Court survey in 2007 determined that there were about 370 get refusers in Israel, slightly more than half of them women. The figures disproved claims that there were thousands of agunot in Israel.

Meanwhile, more recent figures from 2012 found that 163 agunot had received gets, 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.