Israeli Woman Waiting 4 Years for Jewish Ritual Divorce Rejected Due to Rosh Hodesh

Jerusalem Rabbinical Court told the woman no gets are granted on the first day of the Jewish month, but head dayan later intervened after media outcry.

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
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Outside the Jerusalem rabbinical court.
Outside the Jerusalem rabbinical court.Credit: Tess Scheflan
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

A woman who had spent four years trying to divorce her husband finally got her day in rabbinical court on Sunday, but was almost thwarted when the court told her no gets (Jewish divorce) are issued on Rosh Hodesh (the first day of the Jewish month).

The drama began when the woman arrived at the Jerusalem District Rabbinical Court Sunday morning with her attorney, in order to complete the protracted process of divorcing her husband. However, to her amazement, she was sent home empty-handed. A public battle, which began on Facebook and was followed by questions submitted by Haaretz and other media outlets, tipped the balance, and the couple eventually divorced.

The woman, who lives in France, arrived in Israel recently after the two parties finally reached understandings. On Friday, they completed the negotiations and submitted a signed agreement to the court, which refused the woman’s request to grant the get immediately. On her return Sunday, she was told no get would be granted because it was Rosh Hodesh Iyar – although halakha [Jewish law] makes an exception if there is a fear that the woman will remain aguna (a woman whose husband denies her a get).

The couple were married for 12 years and have five children. The woman’s lawyer told Haaretz that the file was opened four years ago, but the husband hardly ever showed up in court while demanding child custody and money.

Recently, there was a breakthrough after the woman agreed to give up most of her rights, including custody of the children – who already live with the husband. She threatened to sue him for damages in a civil court. The woman came to Israel to conclude negotiations. For the first time in years, the husband agreed to report to the rabbinical court to grant the get, but no dayan [rabbinical judge] would agree to handle it Sunday.

Rabbinical pleader Rivka Lubitch reported the story on her Facebook page: “The rabbinical court. Madness. Urgent. Help! A lawyer is standing at this moment with a woman refused a get whose husband agreed after four years to grant her a get, but the court says they don’t arrange a get on Rosh Hodesh! Contact me, operative ideas banging head against the wall has already been tried.”

The call resulted in hours of activity, with journalists contacting Rabbinical Court President Yitzhak Yosef, who is also the Sephardi chief rabbi. An hour later, head dayan Eliyahu Abergel said he would agree to personally arrange the get, after his colleagues refused.

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