A wealthy businessman faces jail time in Israeli for supporting his son’s refusal to divorce.
The man was sentenced to 30 days in prison by the Rabbinical Court in Israel’s second largest city Tel Aviv. This court rules on traditional and religious law governing matters like marriage and divorce.
Under Israeli law, couples can only divorce once the husband grants his wife a ‘get’ – a traditional Jewish divorce document. If he refuses, the wife is known as ‘agunah’ or a ‘chained woman’. However, a husband can be subject to legal penalties if he refuses.
In this case, the couple were Americans who belonged to the Haredi sect of Orthodox Judaism. Ten years ago during a trip to Israel, the wife suffered a stroke and was permanently disabled. The husband then returned to the United States and left his wife and two children behind.
Upon his return to the US, the husband repeatedly refused to grant a get. Two years ago, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court’s ruled that he was obligated to do so.
The Court then investigated and discovered that the husband’s father had supported him and helped conceal his location from Israeli authorities. As a result, the wife did not receive alimony during the couple’s decade-long separation.
During a recent trip to Israel, the husband’s father was summoned before the Court. In a 45-page judgment, the court ruled he had been “a central and active factor behind the chaining of his daughter-in-law through his son’s recalcitrance”. He had the power to “extend her captivity if he [wished], or shorten it and, therefore, appropriate and suitable sanctions must be issued against him”, the Court declared.
He was sentenced to prison but was told he could appeal the decision within ten days.
While punishments for husbands who refuse a get are relatively common, this case marks the first time that the Rabbinical Court has jailed someone other than the spouse refusing a divorce.