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Being abused won’t get you a divorce in Israel’s rabbinic court

20 11 55
25.11.2020

This story is about one woman, but it is also about every woman.

A few months ago, Nitzan Caspi-Shilony, an attorney at the Center for Women’s Justice, stood in a rabbinic courtroom alongside a woman who had been trying to divorce her husband for the past six years. Armed with piles of documentation, Caspi-Shilony told the dayanim — the panel of three rabbinic court judges presiding over the divorce proceedings — of the terror the woman faced in the constant shadow of her husband’s physical and emotional abuse. She showed them proof that the woman had lived in a domestic violence shelter, supported by years’ worth of documents from social services demonstrating the severity of their case. Now, rehabilitated and ready to put this nightmare behind her, all the woman wanted was to be legally divorced from the man who had made her life a living hell.

“After I presented all of the arguments and documents,” recounts Caspi-Shilony on the CWJ podcast Mevakrot Be’Rabanut, “one of the dayanim looked me straight in the eye and asked, ‘But what are her grounds for divorce?’”

There are myriad factors that keep women from leaving violent relationships: fear; feeling like they somehow deserve the abuse; financial dependence; familial expectations; children; isolation and lack of support. But in Israel, there is one final barrier preventing women from breaking free from their abusers: the state.

Because there is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, the only way for Jews to obtain a legal divorce is via the state-operated rabbinic courts, which conduct divorce proceedings in accordance with their interpretation of Jewish law. Jewish law........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)


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