Israeli Bus Company Ordered to Fire Employee for Refusing to Divorce Wife

The Jerusalem Rabbinical Court gave Egged 30 days to fire the abusive husband, who refuses to grant his wife a Jewish divorce

FILE PHOTO: An Egged bus.
רפי קוץ

A rabbinical court has ordered the Egged bus cooperative to fire one of its employees because of his refusal to divorce his wife. The order, issued by the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court last Thursday, gave the company 30 days to comply.

S. and his wife, who have been married for over a decade, immigrated from India a few years ago with their only child. S. had abused his wife, Y., even before they immigrated, but the situation worsened when they moved. On their first day in Israel, he beat her so badly that he was summoned by the police. Since then, both Y. and her son have suffered repeated abuse.

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Three years ago, Y. filed for divorce. She and her husband eventually agreed to try to stay together after S. promised to refrain from physical and verbal abuse, but he didn’t keep his promise.

Y. fled the house a year later, and renewed her divorce suit.

Based on Ottoman law that predates Israel's establishment, there is no civil marriage in Israel. Marriage and divorce for each of the country's religious communities is governed by religious law, meaning that Jewish divorce is governed by halakha (Orthodox Jewish religious law), which requires that a husband grant his wife a "get," or Jewish bill of divorce, in order for their divorce to be valid.

File photo: The Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, March 30, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Ten months ago, the rabbinical court ordered S. to grant her a divorce. But he refused, saying he would only divorce her if she waived her share of their joint property.

Since then, the court has imposed various financial sanctions on him, including requiring him to pay Y. 1,500 shekels ($410) a month. But he still refuses to divorce her.

Y. has been represented in the case by attorney Tehila Cohen of the Yad L’Isha organization, which helps women unable to obtain a Jewish divorce. Cohen eventually concluded that what would hurt S. most was losing his job, and she asked the rabbinical court to utilize a law that allows a man who refuses to grant his wife a divorce to be denied employment at any public agency. Because Egged is subsidized by the state, it qualifies as a public agency for this purpose.

Last Thursday, a panel of rabbinical judges, headed by Rabbi Uriel Lavi, decided to grant Cohen’s request and ordered Egged to fire S. within 30 days.

Yad L’Isha praised the decision. “Every creative solution like this gives great hope to other women that there are other ways to release them from the prison of their marriage,” said its director, Pnina Omer.

Cohen added that Y. “deserves, like anyone else, to lead a tranquil, happy life. We won’t rest until Y. receives her freedom and embarks on a new, better life together with her son.”

Yad L’Isha, which is part of the Ohr Torah Stone network, is the world’s largest organization dedicated to helping women unable to obtain a Jewish divorce. Every year, it represents some 150 women in rabbinical courts, and also provides social workers and personal coaches to help the women while they are awaiting their divorces.