Israel’s Supreme Court stops top rabbinical court from overturning religious divorce

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court extended its injunction preventing the country’s highest rabbinical court from hearing an appeal of a 2014 decision by a local court that granted a religious divorce to a woman whose husband is in a coma.

The Supreme Rabbinical Court had been scheduled to hear the appeal of the ruling by the Safed Rabbinical Court, which granted the “get,” or religious divorce, to the woman, now 34. Her husband had been in a coma since a motorcycle accident in 2007.

The Safed court employed a rarely used method called a “get zikui” to decide that if the husband could make his opinion known he would grant his wife the divorce while she was young enough to remarry.

Both parties must agree to a religious divorce. A woman who does not receive a get is called an “agunah,” or chained woman, and cannot remarry. If she does remarry without a get, her children are considered “mamzerim,” or bastards.

Senior haredi rabbis denounced the 2014 ruling, including Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, The Jerusalem Post reported. The Supreme Rabbinical Court announced in November that it would review the case before a full 11-judge panel, which the Post called an unprecedented move.

The case had been appealed by a third party who has no connection to the case and is not related to either the woman or her former husband in any way, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Mavoi Satum organization, which helps agunot and has been representing the wife, asked the Supreme Court to rule on the case, saying that the Supreme Rabbinical Court should not hear an appeal from a third party with no standing in the case.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit submitted a legal opinion to the Supreme Court supporting the woman’s divorce.

The Supreme Court said it would issue a final ruling on the case in the coming weeks.