Woman Says Israeli Rabbinical Court Pressured Her to Forgo Rape Complaint Against Ex

'I feel they exploited my distress' and used it to silence her, says woman who's divorce agreement was conditioned on her not pressing rape charges against ex-husband

ILLUSTRATION: Ultra-Orthodox woman walks in the street in Jerusalem with her family
ILLUSTRATION: Ultra-Orthodox woman walks in the street in Jerusalem with her family Olivier Fitoussi

An woman whose divorce agreement was conditioned on her not pressing rape charges against her husband says she was pressured into signing it.

The agreement was endorsed by Rabbi Yosef Goldberg, head of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, and grants the woman a get (a Jewish legal divorce decree) if she will not to file a complaint with the police against her former husband for rape and other violent acts he allegedly committed against her while they were married.

The religious court judge “made me feel like I needed to thank him for even being willing to grant me a divorce, and that to everything he says, I need to answer, ‘Amen,’” said the woman. “The important thing is that [the husband] signs [the divorce]. ... During the writing of the agreement, when my lawyer tried to say something, the judge always rushed us and said: ‘Come on, let’s make progress, come and finish it.’ As if there shouldn’t be anything to interfere with signing the agreement.”

“The judge wrote the agreement together with us,” she added.

The woman said the religious court judges pressured her to accept the agreement. “I feel they exploited my distress,” she told Haaretz. “I wanted the get more than anything, just to feel that I was no longer connected to that sick man I only wanted for that sick thing not to be part of my life anymore.”

A religious couple walks past the entrance to the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, 2014.
Olivier Fitoussi

When they went over the final agreement with the judge, he “really pushed us not to change any section so as not to ruin the agreement,” she said.

As part of the divorce agreement and under pressure from the judges, the woman agreed to put an end to the divorce proceedings through the Family Court. “We’re inferior to [civil] judges?” the woman said the judges asked her. “You are a Haredi woman who follows halakha [Jewish religious law]. Why are you supporting a [civil] court?”

The woman said she and her lawyer at the time, Tsuriel Boublil, complained to the court about the conditions her husband demanded. “We said it was not relevant, unacceptable, illegal and inappropriate,” she said, but the religious court judges told her lawyer to “leave it.” She says the judge silenced them. “I don’t remember what happened there word for word, but we definitely tried to protest about it to the judge, without success.”

“I was in distress and willing to accept any condition I felt there was a coalition against me in the [rabbinical] court,” she added.

The agreement was drafted by the couple’s attorneys together with Goldberg, who took an active part in its writing and editing. Once it was completed, Goldberg signed the agreement and it received the status of a ruling, decreeing that the woman must follow the conditions described in it to receive a get.

The woman's new lawyer, Batia Kahana-Dror, called for an end to the exploitative agreements the rabbinical courts endorse in return for the husband granting a get. “This case is an extreme example in which the court is willing to violate the law” just so the husband will agree to sign the divorce. Any condition required for the granting of the get – whether it is the woman’s agreement not to sue in civil court, a demand for less alimony or moving the case from civil Family Court to the rabbinical court – is illegal extortion unrelated to the divorce, she said.