Photo Credit: Karen Green via Flickr
Bedouin family

Israel’s National Labor Court this week ruled that a Bedouin woman, divorced and living in a polygamous family (with her husband and his second wife), is entitled to National Insurance Institute income support benefits in addition to her ex-husband’s income – even though she continues to live near his home with her mother-in-law and their children, Globes reported.

Salami al-Zayadneh, a Bedouin woman, sought to receive income support benefit as she would be entitled to if she lived apart from her husband whom she had divorced. Except that she never left the family compound – which was noted by both the National Insurance Institute and the Regional Labor Court in rejecting her claim, ruling that there was no change in her way of life, and that she continued to maintain a common household with her “ex” husband.

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Al-Zayadneh filed an appeal with the National Labor Court, claiming that her ex-husband, who married another woman immediately after having divorced her about 22 years ago, does not keep a joint household with them, and that there is no connection between them – despite the fact that she has lived since the divorce in her mother-in-law’s home next door. Therefore, the appellant argued, she is entitled to an income support benefit as living independently.

Justice Ronit Rosenfeld, supported by Justice Siegel Davidov-Motola, noted in the ruling that only preconceived notions were the basis for rejecting al-Zayadneh’s claim, without supporting them with a factual basis that is real.

According to the judge, “in rejecting the claim, the NII relied to a great extent on the appellant’s residence close to the home of Feisal. This was done without conducting an environmental investigation in and around the appellant’s house, and without referring to other auxiliary tests, as enumerated in the case-law of this court.”

“By relying on the appellant’s residence in proximity to the home of her ex-husband, the NII did not pay sufficient attention to the reasons underlying the Bedouin woman’s stay in the family compound even after her husband had expelled her,” wrote Judge Rosenfeld, adding that “these reasons are rooted in tribal culture in Bedouin society and in its ways of life, including the weakened status of the Bedouin woman in general, and of the woman in the polygamous family in particular.”

In a minority opinion, Labor Court President Yigal Plitman remained convinced that the appeal should be rejected and that the appellant did not prove entitlement to income support as a single mother. Plitman argued that “the good intention of the ruling to help a woman of lesser status in the polygamous family means, in fact, encouraging husbands in the Bedouin sector to marry many women and divorce them on paper, when they are in fact still part of the common household in the polygamous family; and receive assistance for their polygamous families with income supplements intended for the single mothers but in reality going to the spouses.”

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