Israel's Rabbinical Court system statistics for the past five years paint an interesting picture regarding the number of estranged spouses who refuse a divorce (unless their conditions are met), the low number of dispensations given to men to marry a second wife, and more.
A get-refuser ("get" is the Hebrew word for "divorce papers") is defined as either a man who refuses to grant a get or a woman who refuses to accept one within a month of the issuance of a ruling that a get should be given.
Surprisingly to many, some 56,000 couples have divorced over the past five years. In the vast majority of these cases, the Beit Din (Rabbinical Court) either succeeds in bringing about a divorce by mutual consent, or is presented with a "done deal." However, in nearly 7,000 cases, the Beit Din was forced to order a get – 3,566 against the man, and 3,384 against the woman. In all but 809 of these cases, a get was given within a month.
Of those 809 cases, 382 of them involved a recalcitrant husband, while the other 427 – nearly 12% more – involved women who refused to accept a get. This flies in the face of the conventional perception that unresolved divorces are invariably the result of men holding their estranged wives "hostage" until their unreasonable demands are met.
Between the years 2012 and 2015, 249 women refused a get, while 205 men did. The year 2016 saw a surprising jump in the number of unresolved divorces, caused equally by men and women: 143 by men, 142 by women. So far in 2017, 36 women and 34 men are refusing their estranged spouses' conditions.
During this five-year period, 69 men were imprisoned for refusing to give a get; no women were imprisoned for refusing to accept one.
On the other hand, since 2012, 53 men were granted permission to marry a second wife. Such permission involves a complex process involving two levels of courts and requiring the express permission of the President of the High Rabbinical Court. It is done only when the woman is either physically unable to accept a get, or when her refusal to receive one appears to be intractable.
It could very well be that since women are Biblically forbidden to remarry without a divorce, the only measures that can be taken against men is imprisonment – whereas recalcitrant women are punished not with jail, but with the permission granted to their husbands to marry a second wife.
Nineteen men who were granted permission to remarry by the Regional Beit Din were prevented from doing so by the High Beit Din.
Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, Director of the Rabbinical Courts system, says that every day in which a get is withheld "is one day too much. Any man or woman who deserves a get is like an entire world, and deserves our help. The Rabbinical Courts work night and day to find solutions and bring these sad situations to an end."