Last week, four clients of the Monica Dennis Goldberg Yad L’isha Legal Aid Center received their get – and their freedom – from husbands who had been cruelly, stubbornly refusing to divorce them.
Jaclyn suffered tremendously during her marriage but was so afraid of her husband that she couldn’t take action. But one day, after 32 (!) years of marriage, she got up the courage to grab some personal belongings and leave the family home, moving into a one-room apartment. Her husband was shocked by the move, and frightened; he had been relying on her excellent pension package to secure his future. For a year, he managed to convince the Rabbinical Court that he loved Jaclyn and wanted her back – and they, in turn, tried to convince her to return home for the sake of ‘shlom bayit‘ – peace in the home.
But when Yad L’isha’s rabbinical court advocate and civil lawyer Moriah Dayan took Jaclyn’s case, things starting moving quickly and in just a few months, Jaclyn was granted the freedom that she had dreamed of for three decades. “I’m overjoyed to be able to live my life now; one must never give up hope,” says Jaclyn. “To all the women who are in violent, threatening marriages: just take one small step. I promise you, the freedom you deserve is waiting for you just around the corner.”
Rinat’s parents disapproved of her selfish, indolent husband from the first time they met him, but Rinat, young and naïve, believed that love could overcome all problems and that she’d be able to ‘fix’ him. She was wrong; after two years of marriage, the young woman from northern Israel understood that he would never change. He barely worked, he wasted money, he was lazy and unhelpful. Financial advisors and couples therapists were of no avail. The time had come to leave. The divorce proceedings were moving along when suddenly Rinat discovered that her husband had fled the country. With no one else to turn to for help and no idea what to do, she turned to Yad L’isha.
Rabbinical Court Advocate and civil attorney Tehilla Cohen successfully put pressure on members of his family in order to locate him and force him to return to Israel. Once back, it was not difficult for Tehilla to convince the judges to compel the divorce; today the 25-year-old Rinat wants to share the following message with young people: “You can’t change someone. Before getting married, make sure that you see all of your partner’s shortcomings, and make sure that you are at peace with them.”
L (does not want to be identified)
L and her six children suffered terribly for years at the hands of her physically, emotionally and economically abusive husband. The 30-year-old’s self-esteem – which wasn’t high to begin with – plummeted to rock bottom. She was certain that she deserved what she got, that her husband beat her because she was wrong; that he abused the children because they angered him. Nonetheless, she went to consult with a rabbi in Safed, where they lived. He directed her unequivocally to Yad L’isha. But she was so frightened of her husband’s response that she didn’t dare. One night, L’s husband attacked her in an unprecedented fit of violence and raped her. The very next day she came to Yad L’isha.
“My life took a 180 degree turn since that fateful day,” says L. “Tehilla Cohen enveloped me in warmth and actually accompanied me to the police station, where she helped me file a report. It was such a wonderful feeling, that someone cared enough to help me.” The police detained L’s husband’s and Tehilla began divorce proceedings. After a few hearings, he set her free. The civil case again L’s husband for rape and assault is still ongoing, which is one reason why she cannot be identified. But another reason is because L is still terrified of her ex-husband. “L has a long road to recovery,” says Yad L’isha’s social worker. “We have tailored a rehabilitation program for her which will hopefully re-empower her and help her take the next steps toward true independence.”
Forty-two year old Dafna got married 13 years ago and realized shortly after that she had made a terrible mistake. Her husband was constantly ill-tempered, yelled and cursed at her and couldn’t hold a steady job. But as the children arrived, three in all, Dafna tried to make the family unit work. She confided in advisors and therapists from the municipality in Petach Tikva, where they lived, but her husband refused to take any part of it, claiming that her problems were her own. When Dafna’s husband was fired from a job he had managed to keep for an entire year he grew angrier and more abusive; his outbursts became more frequent and more violent and he began to incite the children against her. Dafna decided that if he didn’t shape up she would file for divorce. At the first court hearing, Dafna’s husband said straight out that he would not give her a get for 100 years. “I have nothing to lose, I have time on my hands and I will make her life miserable,” he said. His threats grew so loud and abusive that the police were summoned. At their recommendation, Dafna escaped with her children to a rented apartment.
After several hearings had passed and Dafna’s husband still refused to give her a divorce, the court directed her to Yad L’isha and things rapidly turned around. “My husband didn’t even show up to the first hearing, but when he was summoned under caution to a second hearing, he arrived,” relates Dafna. “He saw that the game was over, that I was no longer standing on my own, his victim. I had a dedicated professional behind me who was not going to let him go home until I was free,” Sure enough, when Dafna’s husband realized that he was facing a court compulsory order and would then face sanctions if he refused, he agreed to release Dafna from the marriage. “Thanks to Yad L’isha,” she says, “We have been granted a new lease on life.”
We trust that you join us in wishing these women everything that they deserve and more as they embark upon their new lives of freedom, and in saying “kol hakavod” to our talented and dedicated staff at Yad L’isha, who continue to work tirelessly on behalf of their clients and on behalf of women everywhere.