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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776
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Longtime Agunah, ‘Chained Woman’ Freed for Passover

Numerous Israeli departments worked together to help free a "chained woman from an abusive husband.
Mahzor; “Lifting Seder Plate” illuminated manuscript (ca. 1490s).

Mahzor; “Lifting Seder Plate” illuminated manuscript (ca. 1490s).
Photo Credit: Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd, 2012

It’s taken 14 years, an ocean of sorrow and who knows how many trials and tribulations – but at the end an agunah, a “chained woman,” is free at last.

Here’s how it all it began:

Thirty years ago as a 15 year old girl the woman was married in Iran to a man with an explosive temper. Three children and 15 years later, the man’s father became ill. He was sent by his son to Israel for treatment in hopes that it would help, together with his daughter-in-law and granddaughter who suffered from diabetes.

The husband and their two sons remained behind in Iran. But alas! The grandfather died four months later, in the Holy Land. His son did not arrive for the funeral, and instead asked his wife to return to Iran with their daughter – which she refused.

Their two sons came to Israel to avoid the draft in Iran, but their father remained, visiting periodically, returning to Iran each time. At each visit, the husband verbally abused his wife and threatened her incessantly, demanding she return to Iran.

She finally opened a file requesting a divorce at the Rabbinical Court, and asked the Family Court for a restraining order against her husband, for times he would appear on his visits. She also asked for a court order to stop him from leaving Israel on his next visit so he could be forced into giving her a divorce.

But he fled on a false passport, evading authorities and efforts to force him to give his wife a Get – a Jewish bill of divorce. Without that document, a Jewish woman cannot remarry, nor can a man.

The effort continued – then three months ago, it was discovered the man was to return to Israel for the wedding of one of the couple’s sons, using a forged passport, via Turkey. This time, authorities managed to catch him despite the attempts of his children to intervene on his behalf. He was arrested and brought before the Rabbinical Court – where again he refused to issue a Get.

The Rabbinical Court in Israel (unlike elsewhere in the world) is empowered to impose sanctions, and so the rabbinical judges did. Placing the “chained wife” in a safe house where she could no longer be harassed by the husband’s family and their children, the Court jailed the husband.

When he figured out that he had no hope of leaving without issuing the decree of divorce, the husband at last came to his senses, agreed to terminate the marriage, and issued the Get to his estranged wife.

“We thank all the departments who worked so hard together, the Interior and Foreign Ministries, the security services, for their help in freeing this woman who has suffered so long,” said Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, director of the Department for Chained Women in Jerusalem.

“This year at last she will sit at the seder table on Passover as a free woman.”

Hana Levi Julian

About the Author: Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.


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