Divorce (stock)
Divorce (stock)ISTOCK

For the past ten years, D has been fighting. First, she overcame cancer alongside an ongoing battle with infertility, all while dealing with an intransigent husband who refused to give her the divorce she was demanding.

Only now, as a result of a recent court decision releasing her from the marriage, she will be free to pursue fertility treatment on her terms with the hope of finally becoming a mother.

The difficult case, handled by Yad La'isha Legal Aid Center and Hotline for agunot, spanned several years and continents.

The story began about a decade ago when D met a young man, R in the city of Eilat. Even after their initial relationship ended, the two stayed in touch.

When D was diagnosed with cancer, R would accompany her to treatments. With the diagnosis, D also began weighing her fertility options knowing that the treatments would limit her chances for natural conception.

R “volunteered” to help D by proposing marriage saying that they could go through the process of freezing embryos together with the hope of having a child when her health allowed. Only after the marriage was finalized did D become aware that her new husband had serious financial problems and he was hoping that she would now help carry the burden. R hid this information from his wife saying he just wanted to leave for a little while to relax abroad. He took off and to this day has never returned to Israel.

For the first couple of weeks , the two stayed in touch. But then R completely fell off the radar changing his number anytime D succeeded in tracking him down. When she finally got him on the phone, D demanded that he release her from their marriage. R refused and wasn’t heard from for another six years.

During that time, D went into remission for her cancer. With the approval of the local courts in Israel she was given the right to proceed with fertility treatments which to date have not yet born fruit.

Two years ago, D turned to Yad La'isha, the Jerusalem-based legal aid center for agunot under the auspices of the Ohr Torah Stone network, to help free her from the marriage. Rabbinical Court Advocate and civil lawyer Tehila Cohen who represented her in the case initially tried to dissolve the marriage claiming that one of the two witnesses was not a valid witness because he was known to desecrate Shabbat. The court rejected that claim for lack of evidence. Yad La’isha called R’s family members to testify with the hopes of pressuring him into granting the get. Remarkably, that effort worked and after all the years of silence, a lawyer representing the husband reached out and expressed willingness to compromise and grant the divorce. But his conditions were that D would forego any plans to use the embryos which the couple had frozen – essentially ending any dreams that D still had of becoming pregnant.

Continued negotiations between the parties convinced R to drop the demand. This past week, with the involvement of the Chief Rabbi of Argentina, where R remains, the get was finally issued. Despite the challenges imposed by the ongoing lockdown in Israel, the Rabbinical Court in Haifa specially convened to present D with the official divorce agreement. She was finally set her free to pursue a new life and proceed with the fertility treatments with the frozen embryos.

Pnina Omer, Director of Yad La’isha, which has successfully helped hundreds of women escape from trapped marriages, saluted the decision saying, “It’s hard to believe the challenges this one woman has been forced to endure. The fact that she was already dealing with cancer and the frustration of trying to have a child and at the same time she was trapped in this marriage is completely unforgivable. It is time that we find a solution within Jewish law for the plight of these trapped women which is robbing so many of the chance to become mothers, to find love in what is essentially ‘halakhicaly-condoned isolation’. This is an unacceptable phenomenon that simply can’t continue to be ignored. Let us work to make this the year where we find a real solution to address this challenge.”