It may yet become a TV movie, involving detectives, hideouts, false disguises, a dramatic arrest, and then the happy ending. So far, however, it is merely a true story that ended this morning – providing relief for a woman who was held "anchored" for ten years.
The story began some ten years ago, when a man and woman, parents of four children, decided that their marriage was over. They succeeded in reaching a civil court agreement on guardianship of the children and property division, but the actual get (divorce papers) never materialized. The woman finally turned to the Rabbinical Court in the hope that it could facilitate the get.
However, the husband maintained that he still had some outstanding monetary claims, and that only the civil court could adjudicate them. "Regarding financial issues," explained Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, head of the Rabbinical Court's Division for Agunot (literally, chained women), to the Kipa website, "there was nothing we could do to advance the process."
But the court could, and did, inform the husband that it was obligating him to give the get even before the monetary issues were finalized. The court made it clear that if he did not do so, sanctions would be placed upon him. The husband wasted no time, and promptly disappeared.
Specifically, he left his hometown and did not accept mail or phone calls. He also, as was learned only recently, assumed a new name and lived in a non-registered, one-room apartment in Givat Ze'ev, north of Jerusalem. His family helped him remain incognito, and in fact, neither the woman nor the courts were able to locate him.
A year ago, the Rabbinical Court decided to involve the Agunot Division. "We hired a private detective," Rabbi Maimon said, "but he was unable to find the recalcitrant husband, whose family misled us in many ways. We ultimately hired another private eye, and he succeeded in finding him."
It happened a week ago. The investigator discovered that the man was living in Givat Ze'ev, working as a photographer under a new name. He stayed away from public transportation and attempted not to be seen. Two nights ago, Rabbi Maimon recounts, "we followed him as he rode his electric bicycle home. There he was placed under arrest, sat in jail for 24 hours – and this morning he gave the get."
Rabbi Maimon expressed his satisfaction that the woman's ten-year nightmare was ended, but said, "It's too bad it didn't happen earlier. We arrest some 30-50 men each year for this purpose, and 95% of them give a get within a day of being arrested. In this case, the man gained nothing over these ten years, other than having to live underground for all that time. We would like to make it clear to everyone: A man who refuses to give a get – there is no point in hiding."
Rabbinical Court sources reported at the end of 2014 that there were 180 cases of '"chained" women whose husbands refuse to give them divorces – and 190 cases of men in a parallel situation.