Knesset backs law allowing non-Israeli women to file court divorce petitions

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Knesset backs law allowing non-Israeli women to file court divorce petitions

MKs voted to make permanent a law that allows rabbinical courts to impose penalties on men who do not grant their wives a get

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

A man signs a petition at a demonstration for women's rights held outside the rabbinical court for divorces
A man signs a petition at a demonstration for women's rights held outside the rabbinical court for divorces

The Knesset has approved a bill that allows rabbinical courts to hear Jewish divorce petitions even if the applicants are not Israeli citizens.

The proposal applies only to men and is designed to assist women whose husbands refuse them a get, or divorce.

It passed comfortably in the chamber because it was supported both by the governing coalition and the opposition strictly Orthodox parties.

Courts can pass a series of sanctions against divorce refusers, including revoking identity documents, restrictions on their bank accounts and imprisonment.

“There is great joy in the fact that all the parties represented in the Knesset, from the chareidi United Torah Judaism party to the leftist secular Meretz party, supported this important law. Today, the people of Israel have shown their unity with Diaspora Jewry,” said Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis.

“The acute significance of the new law lies in the fact that from the point of view of civil law in the diaspora, it is enough for a husband to provide his wife a civil divorce to be considered to be divorced, even if the couple was married according to halachah (Jewish law).

“As a result, hundreds of recalcitrant husbands, who went on to have new families, kept their wives unable to get remarried. This extraordinary law gives Israeli Rabbinical Courts the jurisdiction to impose sanctions against such husbands, even though they are neither citizens nor residents.”

The bill had been in force as a temporary law since 2018, allowing rabbinical courts to hear divorce claims from women who are not citizens or residents of Israel, so long as they were married according to Jewish law and are unable to obtain a divorce.

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