Three Minutes in the Prison of their Lives
By Michal Levy
Arutz 7 – 17/5/2018
Passersby entered the cage on the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall to experience three minutes in captivity, just a tiny taste of what agunot and women imprisoned in marriage experience daily at the hands of their recalcitrant husbands.
Passersby who walked along the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem yesterday were confronted with an unusual sight: a huge birdcage with a little sitting parlor inside.
The cage was part of a unique display organized by Yad La’isha, a Legal Aid Center and Hotline for women which operates under the auspices of Ohr Torah Stone, and set up in the heart of the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall. Inside the cage sat agunot (women “chained” to abusive or unviable marriages) and mesuravot get, women whose husbands are denying them a Jewish divorce document.
Throughout the day, hundreds of people enveloped the cage and many passersby entered for a three minute “challenge” in an attempt to experience the feelings of captivity felt by women who are trapped in the cage of matrimony day after day, without the ability to free themselves.
The display, which was planned weeks in advance with the aim of “going live” at the beginning of the official wedding season (after the festival of Shavuot) in the hope of raising public awareness to the phenomenon of recalcitrant husbands denying their wives divorces, could not have come at a better time – just as the Rabbinical Court proclaimed Yaron Attias to be a sarvan get, a recalcitrant, get-refusing husband. The court ordered that Attias’ name, picture and personal information be made public, and went so far as to impose upon him social and halakhic sanctions such as forbidding anyone to give him a sitting place in synagogue, call him up to the Torah and more.
A, one of the agunot sitting inside the display, said as follows: “During the past two years I have been busy raising the children, holding down a job in order to provide for them since I don’t get child support, and trying constantly to obtain full custody. I have had no time to care for myself or focus on my personal life and marital status. I have not exposed my story till now. Now the time has come to tell it.”
Pnina Omer, Yad La’isha’s director, said the cage exemplifies the daily living experience of women chained to marriage, and by placing it in the middle of a busy street the women’s captivity is juxtaposed to ordinary life that just goes on without people being sufficiently aware of the great distress these women have been experiencing for years. “It is our public duty not to leave these women alone on the battlefield. A moment before the counting of the Omer ends and the wedding season begins, let us remember that this display has a powerful message to convey: every woman is susceptible to becoming an aguna, a woman chained to her marriage.”