Five years in prison for divorce-refusing husband

Supreme Rabbinical Court orders 5 year jail term for husband refusing to divorce his wife, gives him 10 days to reconsider.

Yedidya Ben Or ,

Divorce (illustration)
Divorce (illustration)

The Supreme Rabbinical Court recently sentenced a haredi man to five years in prison for refusing to give his wife a Gett (divorce document required for divorce by Jewish law).

Rabbinical judges Rabbi Elyahu Heishrik, Rabbi Aaron Katz and Rabbi Michael Amos upheld the wife's request to force her husband's hand by imprisonment.

The Court ruled a year ago that the husband must give a Gett in a extensive ruling in which the legal reasoning was spelled out. The husband was summoned to expedite a divorce but refused to give his wife the Gett.

Four months ago, the Court issued rulings for punitive measures including the revoking of the husband passport and freezing his assets. This was not enough to overcome the husband's spitefulness, as he said "I will never give her a Gett. Even if she gives me all the money and the apartment she'll never have a Gett from me."

In the new ruling, the Rabbinical judges again spelled out their reasoning from precedents in Jewish and general law for issuing the 5-year prison sentence.

At the end of the ruling the judges sent a message to all "Gett refusers": "Sending someone to jail is not easy and is considered a harsh action. We certainly did not sign this ruling lightly, we do it with a heavy heart. Imprisoning a man means not only taking away his physical freedom but also his mental and spiritual freedom. The Court has taken this very seriously into account."

"However, the husband has not left the Court any choice, because set against the pain of imprisoning him is the tradition given down to the wise men of Israel, that obligates the Court to do everything to save the wife from her untenable situation. There is no doubt that such a woman is characterized as a prisoner already. Extracting her from this situation certainly falls under the commandment of "redemption of captives", and the obligation to fulfill this commandment falls squarely on the shoulders of the Court. The same Torah that mandates giving a Gett and prohibits baseless coercion of the husband, commands us to take action in cases where the woman is in such a state, and as soon as possible, even at the price of coercing the husband," the judges added.

The ruling is summarized as follows:

1. By the authority vested in the Court by Jewish and Israeli law, the Court hereby orders the incarceration of the husband for 5 years, as long as he doesn't give his wife a Gett.

2. The ruling will be suspended for 10 days in order to give the husband one last chance to hive his wife a Gett with no preconditions. In the event that he will continue to refuse the incarceration ruling will take effect automatically with no need for any further hearings or decisions.

"The Court calls on the husband to end this affair during the 10 days allocated for him to do so, and thus to go in the path of the Torah," the ruling concluded.