(L to R) Tehilla Cohen, Orly Vital and Pnina Omer
(L to R) Tehilla Cohen, Orly Vital and Pnina OmerYad La’isha

Representing the conclusion to one of the most emotionally challenging and dramatic cases handled by the rabbinical courts in recent memory, a Beit Shemesh resident was granted freedom from her husband this week.

She received her get (writ of divorce) after nearly fourteen years of efforts, including several months the husband spent in prison after being captured in Tel Aviv in a targeted manhunt.

Orly Vital met her husband R while studying in high school, and after several years of being in and out of a relationship, the two married.

They had four children together but the marriage deteriorated and Orly asked for a divorce. For the next six years, R refused her requests stating clearly that he would never concede to a divorce without Orly agreeing to a series of financial demands.

At that point Orly turned to Yad La’isha, a division of the Ohr Torah Stone network, which represents women whose recalcitrant husbands refuse to grant them a divorce. With the case brought before the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, current Chief Rabbi David Lau ruled at the time on her behalf that if R didn’t grant the get he would face immediate arrest.

R asked for a brief recess to confer with his attorney - at which point he fled the building. An official warrant was put out for his arrest alongside a series of sanctions designed to force him to relent, but R remained underground for the next seven years, abandoning the couple’s four children and leaving Orly an 'aguna', or 'bound woman', who is unable to remarry due to her husband's refusal to grant her a divorce.

In August of 2021, a donation of over 100,000 shekels to Yad La’isha was specifically earmarked to fund the expanded services of a private investigations firm. Days later, the efforts paid off and R was spotted in south Tel Aviv and subsequently arrested.

But the story was still not over. For 135 days R remained in jail but continued to steadfastly refuse to release Orly, instead conditioning her freedom on impossible financial demands. When it became clear that those demands would not be met, on Tuesday, January 4th - nearly 14 years after the saga began-, Orly was set free.

Upon receiving her get, Orly Vital expressed her deep thanks to all involved saying, “There’s a well-known rule that you don’t negotiate with terrorists and certainly not with those ones who are already behind bars and this must be the case with get refusers. I knew that this was a war that I needed to fight and to stand firm in the name of what is true and just against the world of lies I’ve been suffering from for over 14 years. I am so deeply thankful to God for bringing me to this day and to the team at Yad La’isha who never gave up, not even for a moment.”

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone said, “The fact that Orly lost 14 years of her life fighting for a release from chains is the height of injustice and abuse, but we are encouraged that the efforts of Yad La’isha allowed her to attain freedom today. We will continue to work tirelessly to advance justice and freedom for agunot.”

“Orly has reached the end of a story defined by struggle of many years that should never have needed to happen,” said Pnina Omer, Director of Yad La’isha. “We thank the judges led by Rabbi Lau who imposed the necessary pressures to bring this to a close. We will continue to fight on behalf of every aguna but we also recognize that we need to find a workable halachic solution that will bring an end to this deeply painful phenomenon that is harming so many women.”