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Degrading, abusive and cruel: What it’s like for a Jewish woman to get divorced in Israel

TJI Pick
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Degrading, abusive and cruel: What it's like for a Jewish woman to get divorced in Israel

Published: 15 August 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

“Be as passive as you can”: When ILANA M. BLUMBERG and her husband made the painful decision to divorce, the behaviour of the religious court rabbi desecrated her faith.

Three months ago, I divorced in Jerusalem’s rabbinical court and saw for myself a dimension of Israeli life that is antithetical to the religious Judaism to which I subscribe. Divorce is painful and private, and I would far prefer not to be public about so intimate a matter.

But in light of the government’s attack on women’s rights, particularly in its decision to extend the powers of the rabbinical courts to include alimony calculations, and the attempt, embedded in the recent budget, to remove entirely the external watchdog mechanism through which citizens can file complaints – I cannot remain silent, especially as a religiously observant woman.

They called us, just my husband and me, into a room that was far larger and more comfortable than the Family Court had been. But this time, there were no women of authority. Just an elderly rabbi with a grey beard who sat before a large desk.  He had no file on our circumstances, only his own certainty that divorce was wrong.

The rabbi turned to my husband and said, in a final attempt, “You know, you have to want this divorce with your whole heart. If you don’t, then it won’t be kosher. Do you want this with your whole heart?”

When two good people are divorcing after more than 20 years of marriage, who can say that they want it with their whole heart? I knew with total certainty that the man I was sitting with would never take advantage of the inequality of the halakhic system or capitulate to this rabbi’s manipulations. But in the split second of silence that followed his impossible question, the rabbi jumped in again, to tell him explicitly that he could deny me a divorce. “You don’t have to give a get.”


Degrading, abusive and cruel: What it's like for a Jewish woman to get divorced in Israel' (Haaretz)  


Israeli public bus driver tells girls to cover up, sit in back: 'You're in a Jewish State' (Haaretz)  
Girls who boarded a public bus in tank tops and jeans are told, ”This is an ultra-Orthodox line”. Nateev Express bus company says they will take “necessary steps” to prevent this from happening again.

Image: Orthodox rabbis sit in judgement over divorcing couples (Ohad Zwigenberg; Andrey Popov/ Shutterstock. Artwork by Anastasia Shub)

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