Chained woman finally freed from marriage after near 14-year struggle
Her ex-husband had managed to hide from law enforcement for seven years until a private investigations firm arrested him in a targeted manhunt.
By RIVKA HELLENDALL | January 5, 2022
One of the most emotionally challenging and dramatic cases handled by the Rabbinical Courts in recent memory came to an end when Orly Vital was granted freedom from her husband on Tuesday.
Vital, a Beit Shemesh resident and mother of four, received her get (Jewish divorce document) after nearly 14 years of continuous halachic (Jewish legal) struggle. When Vital initially asked her ex-husband R. for a divorce, he told her that he would only give her this essential document if she fulfilled a series of financial demands.
After six years of begging him, Vital turned to Yad La’isha, (Women’s Aid) a division of the Ohr Torah Stone network. Yad La’isha represents women whose recalcitrant husbands refuse to grant them a divorce. When the case appeared before the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, Chief Rabbi David Lau ruled that R. would face immediate arrest if he refused to give his wife a get.
Upon hearing that Lau had ruled in Vital’s favor, R. swiftly fled the building under the pretense of conferring with his attorney. The court put out an official warrant for his arrest as well as a series of sanctions designed to force him to relent, but R. managed to evade the court by remaining underground for the next seven years, during which he abandoned his estranged wife and their children.
After Yad La’isha received a donation of over NIS 100,000 in August 2021, a sum that was specifically earmarked to fund the expanded services of a private investigations firm, the firm spotted and arrested him in south Tel Aviv within days of starting its targeted manhunt.
R. spent his next several months in prison but ultimately relented and gave Vital a get on Tuesday, January 4, nearly 14 years after she had first asked R. for a divorce.
Vital expressed her deep thanks to all involved following the court decision.
“There’s a well-known rule that you don’t negotiate with terrorists and certainly not with those who are already behind bars – and this must be the case with get refusers,” she said.
“I knew that this was a war that I needed to fight and to stand firm in the name of what is true and just, against the world of lies I’ve been suffering from for over 14 years,” Vital said. “I am so deeply thankful to God for bringing me to this day and to the team at Yad La’isha who never gave up, not even for a moment.”
Rabbi Kenneth Brander, president and rosh hayeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone said: “The fact that Orly lost 14 years of her life fighting for a release from chains is the height of injustice and abuse, but we are encouraged that the efforts of Yad La’isha allowed her to attain freedom today.
“We will continue to work tirelessly to advance justice and freedom for agunot [Jewish women ‘chained’ to their marriages].
“Orly has reached the end of a story defined by a struggle of many years that should never have needed to happen,” said Yad La’isha director Pnina Omer. “We thank the judges led by Rabbi Lau who imposed the necessary pressures to bring this to a close.
“We will continue to fight on behalf of every aguna – but we also recognize that we need to find a workable halachic solution that will bring an end to this deeply painful phenomenon that is harming so many women.”