S. was finally set free of her chains – just before International Aguna Day
Jerusalem-based aguna advocacy center manages to free one more woman in time for her to mark International Aguna Day as a free woman
With International Aguna Day lurking just around the corner, S. was sure that she would mark it once again as a sad statistic of agunot – women whose husbands refuse to grant them a get. “Even though I left, moved out and continued to raise my children in a peaceful, calm environment, he continues to treat me like an object, to imprison me in chains, like a dog on a leash, pulling in every direction and not being released,” S wrote just one week ago. She could not have imagined that just a few days later her husband would set her free.
S’s story begins about 10 years ago, when she married R., and the two had four children. Over the years, R became addicted to alcohol, and his condition deteriorated as he refused to seek treatment. The marriage turned into a web of violence and debts that the husband accumulated, until S. felt that she could no longer handle it and decided to leave the house.
- did everything in her power to settle things amicably and without argument, but R insisted that he just wanted a peaceful reconciliation, continuing to ignore the seriousness of his condition. Even when S. filed for divorce in the Israeli Rabbinical Court last August through Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha Legal Aid for Agunot organization, R continued to stand by his refusal to grant her a get.
“In light of the fact that in the hearings that took place, the husband did not deny S.’s allegations, the court gave him 14 days to think about the matter before they would take action against him,” explains Yad La’isha attorney Tamar Oderberg, who represents S.
At this point, R claimed to S that he was willing to grant the divorce, but conditioned it on arranging custody and visiting rights with regard to their joint children. “After the two reached a settlement on the matter, he began to drag his feet. He claimed that he had to consult a lawyer, even though he could have done so from the beginning,” notes Oderberg.
The court judges made it clear to R that there was nothing standing in the way of his consulting with an attorney, but that there was no connection between the things and they would not allow him to waste additional time. When R realized that if he continued his refusal, sanctions might be imposed against him, he agreed to give S her get and set her free – just before International Aguna Day.
“In our experience, this could easily have turned into a case that could have been prolonged for many years,” emphasizes Oderberg. “It was the determination of the judges and the fact that they made it clear to R that they would not cooperate with his attempts to delay the divorce, which helped to quickly end the affair. One can only hope that other judges would act in a similar manner, conveying a clear message that the granting of the get cannot be conditioned on any other claim or issue.”
Pnina Omer, director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha Legal Aid Center, said, “We are delighted for S. who is privileged to mark International Aguna Day as a free woman, but at the same time, we mourn the lost years of so many clients whose journey to freedom has not yet ended. Yad La’Isha will continue to fight for women’s right to freedom.”