Divorce Rate Among Jewish Israelis Rising

There are also more verdicts against men who refuse to divorce; women’s groups not impressed.

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Last year 5.8 percent more Jewish couples divorced than in 2012, beating the previous annual increase of 4.7 percent, according to a report by the rabbinical courts.

According to the courts, the rabbis are cracking down on men who refuse to divorce their wives. The report showed a 180 percent surge in the number of penalties handed down in 2013 over the previous year, but women’s groups say this figure is misleading.

Last year the rabbinical courts handed down 168 verdicts against 46 husbands who refused to grant their wives a get, a Jewish divorce agreement. In 2012 there were only 60 verdicts, reflecting the 180 percent jump.

Sanctions included barring the husband from leaving the country, nullifying his driver’s license, and even imprisonment, though there were only 19 imprisonments, compared with 20 in 2012.

“The rabbinical courts are acting to improve their service to the public and have many notable achievements in this regard,” said Shmuel Yosef, deputy president of the rabbinical courts.

Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, head of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status at Bar-Ilan University, played down the data. She said the key figure was the number of husbands against whom sanctions were taken, not the number of sanctions.

“Any increase in the number of sanctions should be welcomed, but the published figures unfortunately do not point to such a dramatic increase,” she said. “Often three or four sanctions are handed down to the same get refuser.”

Halperin-Kadarri added that according to the figures for 2007, 86 men who refused to divorce their wives were penalized, “so in comparison to that year the trend is sadly down rather than up.”

Attorney Batya Kahane-Dror from Dead End, an advocacy group for women who have been denied a divorce by their husbands, said the figures show “a very small number of imprisonment orders compared with the number of husbands who refuse to grant a get. Most of the imprisonments are brief and do not result in the husband granting a divorce.”

According to Kahane-Dror, “the rabbinical courts also fail to note the length of time between the verdict and when the court actually sends the husband to prison. In our experience, years can pass before the court issues such a penalty, which the state comptroller has shown to be the most efficient way of reaching a get.”

In 2013, Jerusalem led the country in the number of gets, with 733 compared with 705 the previous year. This pushed Tel Aviv into second place with 678, compared with 711 in 2012. Jerusalem, which often led the table in the past, is the country’s largest city in terms of Jewish residents.

Haifa has risen to third from fourth in the country with 502 cases, compared with 426 in 2012. It now tops Rishon Letzion, whose 492 cases compared with 488 the year before. Netanya jumped to fifth from eighth place, with 379 cases, up from 346 the year before.

A newly married Jewish couple. Credit: Dreamstime

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