Zionist Union MK Revital Swid has proposed a new measure that – if it is voted into law – will add legal weight to the rabbinic edits banning from synagogues those men who refuse to issue their wives a proper Jewish divorce document, called a “Get” in Hebrew.
Without a Get, a married Jewish woman cannot be divorced, and even with a secular divorce, she cannot remarry. If she does, and children are born from the new marriage, they are considered “mamzerim” – an extremely serious status in Torah law that severely restricts their future ability to marry other Jews.
Up to this point, Israel’s rabbinic courts have issued sanctions – bans preventing recalcitrant husbands from leaving the country – and in some cases, there have been stories of husbands even being jailed to persuade them to issue a Get.
“Women denied a divorce may as well be dead,” Swid said. “Their lives are behind bars created by their spouses.” She added that the proposed bill is supported by the Chief Rabbinate and rabbinical courts.
The measure would include a publicly-viewable online database featuring the names and photos of anyone against whom a restraining order has been filed due to his refusal to give a Get.
The MK said that the database would put a public face on those who are “imprisoning their spouses in marriages that they do not want.”
“The path towards eradicating the [agunah] phenomenon is long, but the bill I am proposing… is a significant step in exposing the ugly faces of those who refuse to give a Get,” Swid said.
But it’s not only men who refuse to grant a divorce. There have also been cases in which Jewish women refuse to accept a Get when issued by a Jewish husband.
This, too, is a problem, but one with more options for solutions under Torah law than that facing women who become agunot.