“Extreme Spite” — The Man Who Willfully Spent 19 Years in an Israeli Prison Rather Than Agree to Divorce

“Spite”: “deliberately trying to hurt someone, even when there is nothing to gain, and even when it involves harm to self.”

Ultra-Orthodox Wedding

Orthodox Wedding

In 1986, a Jewish couple were married in an orthodox ceremony is Israel. They were married for nine years, and they had four children together.

Marriage Nightmare

The husband was an abusive tyrant.  He once beat his wife so severely while she was pregnant that she miscarried.  Another time, he scarred her by threw acid on her.

Finally, in 1995, the wife filed for divorce.  This was the end of one nightmare, and the beginning of another.  

Ancient Jewish Law of Divorce

Under millennia-old Jewish law (“halakha”) for a divorce to be effective, the husband must give his wife a “bill of divorce” (“get”).  Without a get, no new marriage will be recognized, and any children born from a new marriage will be “illegitimate.”  A woman married to a divorce-refuser becomes an “agunah,”chained” or “anchored” to her husband for life.

Court Threatens Stubborn Husband

Entire State Rabbinical Court

The State Rabbinical Court agreed that the wife had good cause for the divorce and ordered the husband furnish a get.  He refused. The threat of the Court seizing his driver’s license, banning travel abroad, or blocking bank accounts had no effect.

The Court found him in “civil contempt,” and threatened to imprison him until he agreed to give the get. He continued to refuse

Husband Willfully Serves 19 Years in Prison

So, he was imprisoned indefinitely until he complied. He had the “keys to the prison in his pocket.”  All he had to do was give his wife a get and he would be a free man.

Out of sheer spite, he continued to refuse, and he remained in prison for 19 years

Independent Court Annulment Not Recognized

Chief Rabbinate

In 2018, an “independent” rabbinic court annulled the marriage.  The court case was closed, and the husband was released.

However, since there was no get, the State Rabbinical Court and the Chief Rabbinate did not recognize the annulment, and the wife remained legally married in the Interior Ministry records. So, she could never remarry.

Husband Guilty of a Crime Under New Law

In 2019, the Rabbinical Court recommended that the husband be charged with a crime under a new divorce-refuser law.  The husband became the first man convicted of refusing a divorce, and he was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Under Jewish law the wife remains “chained” and “anchored” to her abusive husband for life.

This case is a classic example of “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

(See tomorrow’s article for origin of that phrase)

(“Country’s longest divorce refuser walks free from prison,” Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 3, 2019; “Longest-jailed Israeli divorce-refuser freed after 19 years,” Marissa Newman, The Times of Israel, Oct. 2, 2019; “Agunah,” Wikipedia; “Law and Religion: Cases and Materials,” Brett London, Chapter 10, “Interreligious Disputes in the Courts.”)

(Other stories and articles at: londonedition.home.blog or http://www.londonedition.net)

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