Man Who Spent 17 Years in Jail for Refusing to Grant Wife Divorce to Be Released

Gorodetzky’s wife recently went to a private rabbinic court that annulled the marriage and asked the Rabbinical Court to close the case against her husband

Zvia Gorodetzky, 2017.
Emil Salman

The Rabbinical Court closed the case against a man who has been in prison for 17 years for refusing to give his wife a divorce, and has ordered him released from prison, the court announced Tuesday, after his wife obtained an annulment of their marriage in a private rabbinic court.

Meir Gorodetzky’s wife, Zvia, first sought to divorce her husband 20 years ago because of his alleged violence. The Rabbinical Court accepted the wife’s request and ordered the husband to give her a divorce, but he refused to do so.

Seventeen years ago, the court ordered the most serious possible sanction against Gorodetzky – imprisonment. To compel him to grant the divorce, during his time behind bars he was also put into solitary confinement and various privileges were taken away from him, including the right to receive the strictest kind of kosher food, but he didn’t budge.

Gorodetzky’s petition to the High Court of Justice against his imprisonment for more than 10 years was rejected. This opened the door for him to be kept in prison for the rest of his life if he didn’t give his wife a divorce.

A few months ago, an organization called the Justice Center for Women took over Zvia’s case from her previous lawyers. The organization brought her to a private rabbinic court that annulled the marriage, obviating her need for a get, or Jewish divorce, from her husband. The verdict of the private rabbinic court was signed by Prof. Daniel Sperber and two other rabbis who have declined to identify themselves. The woman then asked the Rabbinical Court to close the case against her husband, which will probably lead to his release from prison.

Gorodetzky’s imprisonment is “civil” in nature, for refusing to grant the divorce, but the prosecution and police have issued a criminal indictment against him for the same offense, and Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court issued an order keeping Gorodetzky behind bars until the end of proceedings.