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The Last Agunah of Afghanistan

14 0 6

The Jewish world has been riveted during the last few weeks by the story of “the last Jew in Afghanistan,” feared to be in imminent danger since the Taliban took control of the country. Numerous TV news reports and print articles have explored his identity and history and detailed heroic efforts to try to get him out of the country—against his own resistance—efforts that finally succeeded, with the man now in the US.

The man resisted leaving Afghanistan because his destination would have been Israel, where his wife, whom he has held in marital captivity, iggun, for years, lives. There, the authorities can take legal action, including imprisonment, against men who defy a rabbinic court order to give their wives a get, a rabbinic divorce decree, which is the only way Jews can get divorced in Israel, since the country has no civil marriage or divorce. Rabbinic law, halakha, puts the power to give or withhold a get at the discretion of the baal, the husband, literally, the woman’s master or owner. Any and all men, moral, immoral, or amoral; mentally competent or not, even comatose; however abusive their behavior, including get extortion, violence, child abuse, even attempted murder; whether they are religiously observant or utterly outside the bounds of Jewish tradition, all enjoy this privilege by sheer dint of being Jewish and male.

But when a rabbinic court, in rare instances, invariably after years of (fee-driven) proceedings, during which the woman loses unrecoverable Life Time (an important point of leverage for the men, of course), deems that a man should, of his own free will—an halakhic requirement for a get to be valid, giving men further power– give a get, and he defies the court, in Israel, the State rabbinate can deploy various punitive measures against the recalcitrant man. Whose actionable crime, to be clear, is not keeping a woman hostage in marriage........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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