Jerusalem Rabbinical Court
Jerusalem Rabbinical CourtIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The Jerusalem District Court overturned on Thursday a decision by a Family Court judge that distanced a husband from his home after his wife complained of violence.

What made this a possible landmark decision is that the three-judge District Court panel also determined that distancing a person from his home must only be carried out in extreme cases, and after carefully checking the allegations.

Family Court Judge Ben-Tzion Greenberger had ordered the continued distancing of the man from his home after his wife complained he was mentally ill and violent.

The District Court panel – Judges Hana Ben-Ami, Tamar Bazak-Rappaport and David Mintz – overturned that verdict, writing that “in order to turn a spouse out of his own home on the pretext of domestic violence, one must prove the existence of tangible and immediate danger to the side claiming to be the victim; that the violent acts are particularly severe; who is responsible for the flareups and when they started; and insofar as emotional abuse is concerned – this can only serve as a basis for distancing in exceptional cases.”

"Even if all these conditions are met, the order will only be given for a limited time. An order preventing the entry of a spouse into the couple's home absolutely and indefinitely will only be given in extraordinary cases when there is no other solution for preventing harassment and violent acts by the spouse... and when it appears that there is absolutely no chance that the violent family member... will mend his or her ways and desist from severe violence.”

The judges allowed the husband back into his apartment, but delayed the return by 25 days in order to let the wife prepare herself. 

Which court is fairer?

Issues in Israeli divorce cases are decided by competing systems: the Rabbinical Court system – which decides in accordance with Jewish law and in which all judges, dayanim, are men who are Torah scholars – and the Family Court system, which was established in 1995, at the initiative of then-Supreme Court President Aharon Barak. For Jewish couples, the divorce decree itself must be obtained through a Rabbinical Court.

The Rabbinical Courts are widely portrayed by liberal media and lawmakers as being discriminatory towards women. The Family Courts are usually portrayed as enlightened and egalitarian – and over half of their judges are women.

However, a growing number of citizens of both sexes, including divorce lawyers and judges, see the Family Courts – and the entire secular justice and law enforcement system – as exceedingly anti-male. Feminist-inspired laws originally meant to protect women, they say, have created a situation in which men can be turned out of their homes for long periods of time without any evidence of wrongdoing on their part and without a chance to prove their innocence. In some cases, they say, manipulative divorce lawyers advise women to take advantage of the courts' bias in order to alienate their husbands' children from them and force them to give up their property and other rights.

Experts such as Dr. Yoav Mazeh of Ono Academic College have claimed that the pro-women bias also manifests itself in an unexplainable leniency toward women who beat or even murder their own children.

In the above case, the District Court's decision cast doubt on seemingly unegalitarian decisions of the Family Courts with regard to banning a husband from his home, as women are rarely subject to a decision of that nature.

Husband: I am the victim

In this case, the spouse had said that even if he had been violent in the past, he was no longer violent, and that he had become the victim. He showed that he had been officially recognized as being 100% disabled and that he lives off of his meager disability stipend. He claimed that his wife had threatened him and tried to blackmail him into giving up his part in the apartment after he suffered a stroke.

An Israeli candy store sent 'cupids' to the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court on Valentine's Day, to try and persuade divorcing couples to rethink their decision. While not a Jewish holiday, Valentine's Day is marked by some of the Israeli populace / Flash 90