Rabbi Shlomo Amar-  Tomer Appelbaum
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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A woman who has refused for 16 years to grant her husband a divorce was put behind bars last week - the first time a woman has been arrested in such a case.

The 60-year-old woman, a teacher, has appealed to the Supreme Court, whose president, Asher Grunis, will decide today whether to keep her under arrest.

If Grunis does not rule in her favor, she will remain behind bars until the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court hears her case in July. She can then file a petition over whether the rabbinical court has the right to imprison her.

In 2001, the rabbinical court ruled that the couple's property be divided, but the woman did not accept. She said she deserved a much greater portion of her husband's wealth.

The husband says his wife is using the divorce bill to blackmail him. The woman, a teacher from the north, is demanding a house in central Israel and $1.5 million.

The couple married in 1987. Three months later, their only son was born. In 1996, the man filed for divorce, but the woman refused.

Over the years, the rabbinical court has imposed sanctions on the woman, including an order forbidding her to leave the country and the revocation of her driver's license.

Around six years ago, the rabbinical court granted her husband a marriage permit and ruled that the woman must accept the divorce - a rare decision. The state, however, could not recognize the special marriage permit and still considers the couple married.

Last July, the rabbinical court ordered the woman's imprisonment, after all sanctions failed to persuade her to accept the divorce. Copies of the decision were sent to Attorney General Yehuda

Weinstein and the president of the Chief Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

In a hearing, Amar told the woman to make an offer she would consider acceptable, but she has not made one. The case was returned to the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, which ordered her arrest after she failed to appear at a hearing on Monday.

"I won't accept the divorce under any circumstances, even if they put me in jail," she told Haaretz in July.