Under alias: recalcitrant husband arrested as he tries to reach son’s wedding
Information that came to the attention of the advocates at Yad La’isha led to the dramatic arrest of a longtime get-refuser | His refusal to grant his wife her divorce led to his being barred from his son’s wedding | All the details about this exceptional arrest.
Chanan Greenwood | Yisrael Hayom | 8 September 2019
In what has been described by experts as one of the most difficult cases of chained women (agunot) in today’s world, even being barred from attending his own son’s wedding was insufficient reason for this get-refuser to grant his wife her long-awaited divorce. In an unprecedented step, the man who had traveled to Israel in order to attend the marriage of his son will remain under arrest until he frees his wife from the bonds of marriage.
The story began 23 years ago, when an American ultra-Orthodox couple wed. About 10 years ago, after a failed marriage which included the wife’s allegations of severe abuse, she decided to divorce her husband, took their four children and left. At first the husband agreed to give her a get, but later retracted. In a most unusual step, the chief rabbi of the Belz Hassidic group joined the court ruling which stated that he must deliver the get without delay and without condition. Even this, however, did not help.
About six years ago, the husband visited Israel. The authorities issued a stay of exit order prohibiting him from leaving the country, and as such he was stopped by the Border Authority as he tried to leave using his passport. However, several days later, he managed to trick the authorities, escaping back to the United States by using a false identity, probably that of his brother.
Last Thursday, Rabbinical Court Advocate and Attorney Tehila Cohen from Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline who has been working on the woman’s case for the past two years, received information that the get-refuser had boarded a plane for Israel in order to attend his son’s Sunday night wedding. This information was conveyed to the rabbinical court’s Agunot Department and as a result, a control room was set up to coordinate efforts with the police and the Ministry of Interior. They decided to scan the faces of all the passengers who disembarked from the flight in order to identify the incoming get-refuser.
At 15:45 the man was identified as he got off the plane. Airport police officers trailed him to Passport Control where he presented an unknown passport bearing his name but with a picture that did not resemble him at all. The man was immediately arrested. A search of his possessions revealed that he also had a Canadian passport with him. In a special move, the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court convened just two hours before Shabbat commenced, and decided that he would remain under arrest until a court session could be held on Sunday morning to discuss his case.
However, it soon became apparent that even the threat of detention was not enough to convince the man to give a get to his wife. A few hours before his son’s wedding, the police brought the man to the rabbinical court but even then, he refused to grant the get. The wedding took place as planned, but without the father’s presence. In addition to the get-refusal charge, another reason the court did not release him for his son’s wedding was because in 2013 he had fled the country, despite promising to appear in court.
Pnina Omer, Director of Yad La’isha said, “Great efforts were made to have the get given before the wedding because we sincerely wanted the father to be allowed to bring his son under the wedding canopy. Unfortunately, the father, who stubbornly continues to deny his wife her freedom, rejected all of the suggestions we made to him. He chose to remain under arrest instead of being present at his son’s wedding celebrations. I reiterate my call to the leading rabbis to work together to find a halakhic solution to the problem of chained women. I thank the Agunot Department for their assistance in this case.” Today, (Monday) the Supreme Religious Court convened at the husband’s request, but he will probably remain in detention until he gives the get.
Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, head of the rabbinical courts’ Aguna Department: “We thank the officers from Ben Gurion Airport Police and the Border Authority of the Ministry of the Interior for their cooperation. In the past year, we succeeded in releasing 60 non-Israeli women from their status as agunot. This would not have been possible without the assistance of the State of Israel.”