Female lawmakers boycott MK’s speech after he invites divorce refuser to Knesset

Ten MKs walk out of Yehudah Glick’s address to protest his meeting with Yaron Atias, subject of a shunning order from a rabbinical court

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Yaron Atias and his wife Mazal Dadon Atias pictured with their children in September 2015. (Facebook)
Yaron Atias and his wife Mazal Dadon Atias pictured with their children in September 2015. (Facebook)

Ten female Knesset lawmakers boycotted a speech given in the plenum by Likud MK Yehudah Glick on Monday to protest his having invited to the Knesset a man reviled by the religious courts earlier this month for refusing to grant his wife a divorce.

Yaron Atias, 39, originally from the coastal town of Ashdod, has for the past two years withheld 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 step it rarely takes, a district rabbinical court in the northern city of Haifa 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.

Likud MK Yehudah Glick in the Knesset, May 29, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

The MKs who quit the debating chamber along with Azaria were Zionist Union’s Merav Michaeli, Revital Swid, Michal Biran, Lea Fadida and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin; Michal Rozin (Meretz); Likud’s Nurit Koren; and Kulanu’s Merav Ben-Ari and Tali Ploskov. Several unidentified male lawmakers reportedly walked out with them.

It was not clear why Glick — who has spoken in favor of prenuptial agreements to avoid the problems associated with get refusal — had invited Atias, and there was no comment from his office even hours after the story broke.

Kulanu party MK Rachel Azaria seen during a Knesset meeting, November 6, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In February, Glick — known as a firebrand 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.”

Atias, who is banned from visiting his home by a restraining order, has claimed in viral Facebook posts and in media interviews that he will grant his wife a divorce and a get if she agrees to joint custody.

The usual arrangement is that divorced fathers get to take their children home on one weekday per week and every other weekend.

Atias said his case was different because he was the main influence on his children.

On Wednesday, a lawyer for Atias wrote to Israel Radio to demand that a well-known morning show anchor be fired for alleged slander during an interview with him.

On Thursday, Atias uploaded the letter to his Facebook page, saying that while the court had ordered that he be socially ostracized, “miserable women and small people” were using the ruling to attack him — people who suffered from “lack of anger control” and who belonged “in mental institutions.”

Mazal Atias told Israel Radio on Friday that she did not think the children were the real issue, but that Atias was obsessed with her.

She said she had offered joint custody and never tried to keep the children away from him, but that Atias had raised obstacles along the way that suggested his motivation lay elsewhere.

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.

In May 2017, Zvia Gordetsky launched a hunger strike outside the Knesset after being refused a religious bill of divorce for 17 years (Courtesy)

Last year, an Israeli woman denied a religious bill of divorce for 17 years went on hunger strike out of desperation.

Earlier this month, the Knesset debated a bill to extend the Israel’s rabbinical courts oversight of Jewish divorce cases.

Most Popular
read more: