Haredi man whose son is withholding Jewish divorce avoids jail

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — A haredi Orthodox man who urged his son to withhold a religious divorce from his disabled wife will remain out of jail but is still banned from leaving Israel.

On Monday, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that the man, whose name remains under wraps, does not have to serve a 30-day jail sentence levied on him in March by the Regional Rabbinical Court of Tel Aviv.

The father had appealed his jail sentence to the secular Supreme Court, according to The Jerusalem Post, arguing that he was not the recalcitrant party, as an independent investigation carried out by the Tel Aviv rabbinical court had said. The rabbinical court called the father the driving force behind his son’s refusal for 14 years to grant the divorce.

The wife’s lawyers said Monday that she was willing to forfeit all claims to child support and other money, and agreed to allow the father to see the children whenever he wants in exchange for the divorce, according to The Jerusalem Post.

In Israel, marital issues are under the jurisdiction of religious tribunals that act as family courts.

The case involves a haredi couple who married 19 years ago and lived in the United States with their two children. The wife was rendered disabled a decade ago after suffering a severe stroke when she was in Israel for a visit with her husband and children. The husband returned to the United States; his wife remained in Israel with their children. He has consistently refused her requests to be divorced, allegedly because of his father’s objection.

An injunction preventing the father from leaving Israel was issued in 2015 when he was in the country on a family visit.

In Orthodox Judaism, a marriage cannot be undone unless the man consents to a “get” — the Hebrew word for divorce. Rabbinical courts cannot force a man to give his wife a get, but they can impose harsh punishments and public shaming on any party the judges determine is unjustly withholding a get and turning women into what is known in Judaism as “agunot,” or chained women.

Agunah are not allowed to remarry under Jewish law, and any children one might have with a new husband are considered illegitimate.