Ultra-Orthodox mother of 7 arrested for refusing divorce

Police handcuffed ‘G’ to her hospital bed for 20 hours; MK Aliza Lavie calls case ‘shocking’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The building of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The building of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police arrested an ultra-Orthodox woman Tuesday for refusing to accept a religious divorce from her husband and held her for two days.

The woman, whose name has not been released and is being referred to by the initial G, and her husband separated and started divorce proceedings four years ago, but their case has only been active for the past four months. The two live in Jerusalem and have seven children, one of whom is disabled, Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Husbands refusing to grant a religious divorce, or get, are common, but the opposite does not normally occur as rabbis can circumvent a wife’s refusal and push through a divorce without her acceptance.

The rabbinical court has the power to levy fines or even order jail time for people who refuse to cooperate in divorces.

The police were acting on orders of the rabbinic court, which called for the woman’s arrest after she failed to appear in court. However, the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women, which has taken on the woman’s case pro bono, claims that she missed the court date as she had just returned home after undergoing surgery and had sent medical confirmation to the court.

Police arrested the woman a few days after her surgery, and she was on her way to Neve Tirza prison near Ramle when she began to feel sick. She was brought to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where police officers handcuffed her to the hospital bed for almost a full day, a move which is in contravention of the Israeli Prison Service’s 2011 guidelines as well as the ethical guidelines of the doctors’ and nurses’ unions.

The arrest order also seemed to go against a family court decision to allow the woman to defer accepting the get until after the couple’s property is divided.

She was released on Thursday afternoon.

“A difficult case likes this proves again the devastating consequences of competing jurisdictions in the State of Israel,” MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) told Ynet.

According to the Rackman Center her husband, a contractor, owns six apartments and, under the family court’s decision that was handed down two years ago, he is meant to give her one of them and pay off its mortgage.

Vered Swid, director of the Authority for the Advancement of Women, a state-run body, came to visit G in the hospital and “was shocked to find a woman chained with handcuffs to her bed. A woman who was not a robber, not a murder and not a rapist. Few of the rapists that I’ve seen have been handcuffed to their hospital beds.”

Swid went on, “I don’t understand what thought process enables a woman in her condition to be chained to a bed, when there are no less than two officers in the area.”

After news and photographs of the story broke police finally removed the handcuffs on Wednesday afternoon.

The religious court responded to questions, stating, “It is possible for her to be released on bail. She is able to appeal the ruling of her regional court.”

Buba Levi and Galit Nahum, managers and founders of the group The Feminine Voice, took up G’s cause and said: “How is it possible that in Israel in 2015 a woman can be sent to prison after the father stops paying child support to his disabled child, despite a court ruling?”

“Here we have a chain of failures that we have to learn from so something like this never happens to another woman in the State of Israel,” Swid said.

The head of the Rackman Center, Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, said, “We are working hard to prevent her return to jail and bring this case to a rapid conclusion.”

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