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Increasing antisemitism in the United States has affected American Jewry, and there is a feeling that there is no place to hide. But there is one thought that any Jew keeps in the back of his or her mind: “If it gets really bad, I can get on a plane and go to Israel.”

Israel welcomes Jews from all over the world. But if a get refuser lands in Israel, he doesn’t exactly feel welcome. That is due to the fact that Israel has a very effective law on the books known as the “Diaspora Agunot Law.”


If you are a get refuser – if you have turned your wife into an agunah – don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you are not an Israeli citizen, Israel’s Rabbinical Courts do not have legal jurisdiction over you. You can say to yourself, “Neither my wife nor I have any connection to Israel; neither of us is a citizen or a resident nor own any property or even have an Israeli bank account; I’ve never even visited Israel.” But all that does not provide you with immunity. Quite the opposite.

Simply put, if your wife has the required information demonstrating that you have turned her into an agunah, meaning that securing a get from you in the Diaspora has proven to be impossible – either due to your flouting the rulings of a local beit din or the absence of a qualified beit din in her locale – and that there are civil divorce proceedings in place, she can sue for a get in the Israeli Rabbinical Court, even if she is not present in Israel.

Three dayanim are primed and ready to issue sanctions against you, including an incarceration order, for refusing to give your wife a get. The Israeli police will put that order into effect. The Israeli Prison Services will welcome you into one of their well-populated prisons. Imagine that – instead of going to the Kotel upon your arrival, you may be escorted to a holding cell until the local Rabbinical Court opens its doors for the day.

In tens of such cases, get refusers entering Israel as tourists were hauled in front of the Rabbinical Court. When comprehending the sanctions that may be levied against them while maintaining their position of get refusal, these men arranged the get through the good services of the Israeli Rabbinical Court. Furthermore, as reported by the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, dozens of agunot were freed by local European Rabbinical Courts simply by describing the very existence of Israel’s “Diaspora Agunot Law” to the get refusers – in Europe.

Take heed of Rabbi Goldschmidt’s explanation: Jews want to have an escape plan ready, should it become necessary, to reach the Jewish safe haven. But for get refusers, the door to Israel would be closed. As a result of learning this, get refusers took care of that impediment by simply giving the get, thus keeping their options open.

Israel is a welcoming home for all Diaspora Jews – almost. It will be for you too when you give your wife a get.

(Written in honor of International Agunah Day, Ta’anit Esther, March 21.)


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Rachel Levmore (Ph.D. in Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University) is a rabbinical court advocate; director of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency (; first to’enet rabbanit member of the Israel State Commission for the Appointment of Dayanim; and author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of get-refusal.