A man who had refused to grant his wife a divorce for the past two years on Sunday finally agreed to do so after spending several days in jail.
Yaron Atias, 39, originally from the coastal town of Ashdod, gave his wife Mazal Dadon Atias a get — the Hebrew term for a divorce document, which under Jewish religious law a husband must provide his wife when a marriage is dissolved — in a rabbinical court in the northern city of Haifa, Hebrew media reported.
Likud MK Yehudah Glick acted as mediator between the couple, and after the bill of divorce was given he tweeted “Mazal Tov” to the husband, the wife and their children.
Glick had caused an outcry by inviting Atias to the Knesset last month.
On Wednesday Atias was jailed for contempt of court after he was caught driving despite having had his license revoked as a punitive move until he agreed to give his wife the bill of divorce.
A spokesperson for the rabbinic court told Srugim news site that the couple held intensive talks at the court on Friday, but Atias refused to give the divorce. “This morning, Atias was accompanied by the Israeli Prison Service from Kishon police station to the rabbinical court in Haifa,” the spokesperson said Sunday. “After discussion, a divorce agreement was signed and a get was arranged between the two parties.”
In a step it rarely takes, three weeks ago the court had permitted his photograph and various details to be made public and called on the public to ostracize him in order to pressure him to grant the divorce sought by his wife, Mazal, who is currently living with her children in the north of Israel.
Specifically, the court ruled people should not talk to him or do business with him, not host him, not visit him when he is sick, not grant him a public role in synagogue, not pray for him if he dies, not show him any respect, and stay away from him as much as possible.
Atias was invited to the Knesset last month by Glick, sparking anoutcry and leading 10 female lawmakers to boycott a speech given by the MK. On hearing that Glick had invited Atias to his office, Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria called on Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to have Atias removed from the building immediately.
His presence in the Knesset constituted a “cheapening of the court’s decision and the steps it recommended be taken within the framework of the battle against the phenomenon of get refusal,” she said.
In February, Glick — known for his campaign to allow Jews to worship on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount but as relatively liberal on many other issues — told a Knesset committee debating get refusal, “Rabbis never lead revolutions. In the best scenario, they’re dragged along… The public must lead a process by which people don’t get married without a prenuptial agreement rather than wait for the rabbis to decide.”
Rabbinical courts, which in Israel function as family courts, cannot force a man to give his wife a get but they can impose harsh punishments, including jail time, on any parties the judges determine are unjustly withholding a get and thus turning their wives into what is known in Judaism as agunot, or “chained” women who cannot remarry. Jewish law requires that a divorce be willingly granted by the husband, and accepted by the wife.
Mavoi Satum, a nonprofit organization that provides legal and emotional support to women who have been refused a Jewish divorce, estimates that thousands of Jewish women in Israel are currently agunot.
Last year, an Israeli woman denied a religious bill of divorce for 17 years briefly went on hunger strike out of desperation.
Last month, the Knesset debated a bill to extend the rabbinical courts’ oversight of Jewish divorce cases.
Sue Surkes contributed to this report.