Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Thursday called on Israeli Jewish couples getting married to sign prenuptial agreements to ensure that husbands will not withhold a get, or Jewish writ of divorce, from their wives.
At an event with leaders of Tzohar, a relatively liberal group of Zionist Orthodox rabbis, Shaked touted a prenup agreement developed by the organization together with legal experts, saying the document “is inspired by love between a husband and wife with the awareness that true love comes with the understanding that we cannot foresee potential problems ahead but we must do what is necessary to avoid them.
“The concept behind this initiative is based upon Jewish ideals of love, equality and human goodness. I call all couples to sign the agreement,” she added.
According to halacha, or traditional Jewish law, a husband must give his wife a bill of divorce called a get in order for the couple to divorce. Women whose husbands refuse to divorce them — preventing them from remarrying under Jewish law — are referred to as agunot, Hebrew for “chained women.”
In Israel, where all divorces are subject to religious law, the norm has left thousands of women in legal limbo due to husbands who refuse to grant divorces. The phenomenon has received a lot of attention in recent years as rabbis try to battle husbands who are “get-refusers.”
Thursday was designated International Agunah Day in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue.
Last September, the Rabbinical Council of America announced that it will mandate its member rabbis to require couples to sign a prenuptial agreement to avoid such scenarios.The agreement, commonly referred to as a “halachic prenup,” generally penalizes the husband financially for refusing to give the get.
On Thursday, Rabbi David Stav, the founder and chairman of Tzohar, said the agreement promoted by Shaked was developed after seeing countless couples fall victim to the “agunah problem.”
With the carefully structured language of the Tzohar document, any woman or man facing such circumstances would have legal recourse to escape from the bondages of an “unwanted marriage,” he said, according to a press release.
In November, the Justice Ministry, headed by Shaked, launched an initiative implying that Israeli husbands who refuse to grant a Jewish religious divorce to their wives can be indicted and face stiff prison sentences.
State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan issued a directive allowing civil courts to prosecute and punish recalcitrant husbands who refuse to follow the ruling of the rabbinical judges.
There are also a few rare cases of men who are “chained” because their wives refuse to accept the get. However, for a man, the Jewish legal implications are not as severe.
“In the cases where rabbinic courts give an order demanding a get, we can now consider opening an investigation against the divorce-refuser and bringing him to trial for ignoring a legal order, under section 287 of the penal code,” Nitzan wrote in his order.