Under new policy, get refuser in Israel can be criminally charged and jailed

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A Jewish man in Israel who refuses to grant his wife a religious divorce after being ordered to do so by a rabbinical court could face criminal charges and be jailed.

A new policy directive issued Monday by Israel’s State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said that if a husband is convicted of violating the rabbinical court’s order to give his wife a get, or religious divorce, the state prosecutor will ask for a significant prison sentence, Haaretz reported.

A religious court cannot impose a get, and a man must give the religious divorce of his own free will. Nitzan said the state will adhere to those conditions by only threatening criminal charges after the rabbinical court has ordered the get and after consulting with the legal advisor to the rabbinical courts, Haaretz reported.

The men can still be jailed even if he subsequently agrees to grant the divorce, under the new directive.

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A woman who is unable to obtain a get is known as an agunah, or chained woman. Under Jewish law she cannot remarry.

Men who refuse to grant their wives a religious divorce have been shunned socially and refused honors such as being called to the Torah in synagogues in an effort to pressure them to change their minds.

Though officially there are listed 131 women whose husbands have not granted them a religious divorce, groups that provide help for such women say they get thousands of requests for assistance each year, the Times of Israel reported.

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