(Sarcasm) Aw, poor thing, living apart from her husband by choice and having sole custody of their three children, just because she refused to give him access to them at a level that he considered fair (/sarcasm):
In Jewish society, there are estimated to be thousands of women in broken marriages where their husband refuses to give them the necessary religious document enabling a divorce. In some cases, the wife can remain trapped in the situation for years, unable to remarry or move on.
Shoshana is lonely. She has been raising her three children alone for almost 15 years. She is a not a widow, she is not divorced, she is what is known in Hebrew as an aguna, or a “chained” woman, because though she wants to, as a Jewish woman, she cannot free herself from her marriage to her husband.
In Judaism, in order for a couple to divorce, the woman needs to ask her husband for a “get”, a Jewish divorce. But some husbands refuse.
Shoshana lives in Israel and her husband lives in the United States, and despite a local Jewish Court requiring him to give her a divorce, he has not yet done so.
As a devout Jew, she is forbidden from dating, remarrying or having any sort of relationship with another man until she is divorced.
“A woman whose husband refuses to give her a divorce really is held hostage,” says Shoshana. “It’s the ultimate form of emotional abuse because he’s confining her to loneliness.”
Shoshana’s husband, Aaron, says he is fighting for custody and visitation rights for their now-teenage children.
In an email, he wrote that his wife is refusing to accept a divorce which allows him “any reasonable, guaranteed visitation or custody arrangements” and that he would be willing to give her a divorce that meets his conditions.
He claims that had she not erected “barriers to my having a guaranteed and normative relationship with my children then we would both be remarried (hopefully) by now”.
Naturally, the leftist BBC only feels sorry for her, considers her the victim, when in fact it’s her husband who is the victim, not being able to see his children at all… No wonder he won’t grant her a ‘get‘…
Just as a man must give a divorce, a woman must accept one, but today in Israel, there are only one or two men who are considered “chained”, compared to over 100 women, according to Rabbi Eliahu Maimon, head of Agunot for the Jewish Court Administration.
“In Jewish law, marriage is done with the full agreement of both sides, so when you divorce, you also need the agreement of both sides,” explains Rabbi Maimon.
“Marriage is a new spiritual reality between a man, a woman, and God. It’s holy, and when you want to break that spiritual connection, it has to be done properly.”
Mutual consent makes sense. We would do well to emulate that in our laws: end no-fault divorce, and institute only-by-mutual-consent-EXCEPT-if-one-party-is-cheated-upon-or-truly-physically-abused divorce, instead.
In the meantime, Shoshana remains imprisoned inside her marriage. She is now 43 years old, and while when she was younger, she considered the possibility of remarrying and moving on with her life, she fears those days have already passed her by.
“I’m not allowed to date other men, I’m not allowed to spend time alone with other men,” she says, or she will be considered “an adulterous woman.”
She could end it all by agreeing to an equitable custody arrangement, but she will not. Her own damned fault.
Shoshana’s case is being handled by a lawyer who is also a Rabbinical Court Advisor trained in Jewish law, a woman named Tehilla Cohen, who advocates for agunot in the Jewish court system.
They are waiting for the court to decide whether to adopt methods to force Shoshana’s husband to give her a divorce, which often works in Israel, but has no real power over someone who lives abroad.
In Israel, once the Jewish Court rules that a man must give his wife a divorce, if he does not comply, they can place civil sanctions on him, including taking away his driver’s license, cancelling his credit cards and closing his bank account, fining him, and in extreme cases even putting him in jail, says Rabbi Maimon.
Usually these measures are enough to convince a man to grant his wife a divorce, although there are several men sitting in Israeli prisons today and still adamantly refusing to free their wives.
In Shoshana’s case, because her husband resides abroad, a decree from the Jewish Court forcing him to grant her a divorce would only entail him being shunned by his local Jewish community.
I do feel sorry for the Israeli men who are punished by the Israeli state for exercising their religious prerogative; it’s as bad as garnisheeing of wages towards alimony in the West… Their religious laws may be more favourable to men, but the laws of their very-westernized country, as a state, are no better, alas…
Rabbi Maimon says he is currently working on pushing through two new laws to help resolve these issues.
The first would allow the Jewish courts more power over restricting the lives of those men in prison, such as limiting their phone calls and visits.
The other would declare refusing to grant a divorce to be a criminal offence, thereby allowing extradition and dealing with the issue of Israeli husbands running away to other countries for refuge.
Making men international outlaws, just for refusing to cave to the whims of women like Shoshana, vindictively withholding access to their children from her husband… Yikes. Let’s pray Rabbi Maimon fails in his attempts.
*Update: Another of these kinds of cases: