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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.”

About the Author: Hana Levi Julian began her career in journalism out of boredom while earning a BA in Mass Communication, creating a news department at SCSU's radio station because all the disc jockey positions were filled. In addition to her former position as a Jewish Press columnist and senior correspondent and editor at Arutz-7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and numerous other media outlets.


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12 Responses to “Longtime Agunah, ‘Chained Woman’ Freed for Passover”

  1. Dan Silagi says:

    The time to institute civil marriage in Israel is long overdue. And it's time to make the "get" requirement illegal in Israel and everywhere else, and treat it as exactly what it is — extortion.

  2. THANK HASHEM! But, the fact that her children wanted to intercede on behalf of the father and that they, too, harassed their mother is extremely disturbing…

  3. Ohr Torah Stone is proud of our rabbinical court advocates in Yad L'isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotine, who represented this woman throughout her ordeal, were responsible for notifying the Department for Chained Women and bringing them on board in her case, and who both arranged and subsidized her "safe apartment". We are gratified that this woman will finally be able to celebrate Chag HaCherut – the Festival of Freedom – in true freedom.

  4. Read the story again; it was the rabbanut that solved this one.

  5. Dan Silagi says:

    Jennifer Kowloop This is like saying that a team of doctors cured this person's polio completely, when had the person been vaccinated, he never would have contracted the disease in the first place.

  6. Dan Silagi Sorry, you aren't even making any sense. The woman in this case got married in Iran, and the husband lived in Iran. How would any amount of Israeli laws have helped?
    Just repeat after me: "I didn't read the article, I just saw the headline and went on a rant.

  7. Dan Silagi says:

    Jennifer Kowloop I know they got marrried in Iran. But had there been civil divorce in Israel (which there is for non-Jews) this "get" BS wouldn't have mattered one whit. Her children wouldn't be considered "mamzerim" and she could have gone on with her life without the need of a beit din.

  8. Dan Silagi Sure, if she was willing to marry out of her halachic marriage, and if she was willing for her children to be halachic mamzerim.
    And I'm puzzled you presume that Israel would grant a civil divorce for a marriage that was entered into in another country, and where one spouse was still in that other country. Most countries wouldn't do that.

  9. Dan Silagi Outlaw the giving of gets? Well then NOBODY could get divorced! What a brilliant idea.
    Also, the US does not outlaw Santeria. They tried to in Florida, but it was struck down in Lukumi. You really don't know anything.

  10. Alana Ronald says:

    So happy this woman is free! She suffered enough. Bless whomever helped.

  11. Dan Silagi says:

    You can get divorced without the giving of a get. It happens every day. The get is a means for an orthodox man to extort money from his ex-wife, and should be outlawed, religious custom or not.

  12. I'm sorry but your lead paragraph — and the rest of familial references — is too muddy to understand. Maybe your editor's eye could've rested on these a little longer?

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