How the Problem of Get-Refusal is Underrated by Officials – opinion
People who deny the phenomenon of get–refusal, much like those who deny COVID, know how to juggle the figures in order to reach the desired conclusions, as false and unrealistic as these may be. We saw a live demonstration of this in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee just last week, when the Rabbinical Courts published the number of get-refusal cases, based on criteria which bluntly ignore thousands of existing cases.
by Advocate Moriah Dayan | October 11, 2021
COVID brought an avalanche of numbers into our lives, and along with it – the understanding that any data presented to the public may be subject to manipulation and intentional selection, and, as such, may paint an alternative reality. Imagine a scenario in which the Ministry of Health wishes to publicize statistics reflecting the number of severely-ill COVID patients. The Ministry might choose the number of patients who are connected to ECMO machines in the ICU units as an indicator of severe cases. Let’s take this a step further, and imagine that for reasons of policy, the Ministry of Health has limited the number of ECMO machines in hospitals that can be used for COVID patients to five only. Now do the math and see what happens when the Ministry counts the number of patients connected to ECMO machines and then publicizes this figure as an indicator of severe COVID cases. No doubt, the very next day, COVID-deniers will react with huge headlines: “Number of COVID cases at an all-time low” or “Israel boasts almost zero COVID cases” or “The Corona pandemic is a thing of the past – the treatment has proven itself.” Would the public truly be convinced by these headlines? Would such a manipulation of figures, dictated by predetermined definitions, which hardly reflect the real situation, be able to outsmart the general public?
It seems that tricks that don’t work for Corona do work when it comes to matters of get-refusal. Each year the Rabbinical Courts publicize the number of get-refusal cases – based on their definition of the term – which make huge headlines. This is exactly what happened last Wednesday, during a discussion which took place in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law & Judgement Committee, just when the statistics about get recalcitrants were made public. The figures were based on predetermined criteria that did not take into account thousands of cases. Let me explain.
As presented to the Knesset committee, the Rabbinical Courts define a divorce case as one of get-refusal only if the following three conditions hold true: a. A Rabbinical Court had already ruled that a get must be given or extracted by force. b. A date had been determined for the granting of the get. c. The recalcitrant party had not shown up to the court hearing. Adopting such a definition for get-recalcitrance basically means all the women’s organizations can close up shop and find some other cause for which to fight, because it leaves such a narrow definition for get-refusal cases, that the problem is not treated with the seriousness it deserves.
It must therefore be asked, is this really the right formula for measuring the scope of get-refusal? The answer to that lies in one significant piece of data which, too, was placed on the table of the committee, and tells a whole different story. I am referring to the fact that each year between 2000 and 3000 divorce cases that have been going on for more than two years, appear before the Rabbinical Courts. Let it be emphasized that this figure refers to divorce cases per se, which do not involve disputes of alimony, property or custody – only the matter of the divorce itself. What happens with such cases? Does somebody actually believe there is good reason for dragging out the divorce over such a long period? Rabeinu Yerucham contended that a year of conflict suffices to put at end to a failed marriage. Even the renowned Rabbi Haim Palachi, who was known for his stringency, talks of no more than a year and a half. So how did we get to two years? Well, according to the Rabbinical Courts and those seeking headlines, such cases are not counted as get-refusal cases, because no ruling was given to enforce or compel the granting of a get. Thus, a vicious cycle of statistics is formed, whereby figures are subject to a very narrow definition that hardly reflects facts or reality.
Notwithstanding the above, I am still hopeful we do not fall into the same trap again, as easy as it may be. Let us examine the figures closely and learn their true meaning. Between 2000 and 3000 couples, whose lives have been put to a standstill, is not a negligible figure; rather, it is a true reflection of a very severe problem, which still prevails. Get-refusal deniers, much like COVID deniers, know how to juggle the figures, in order to reach the desired conclusions, as false and unrealistic as these may be. My friends and I, members of numerous women’s organization, know full well that it is not yet time to close up shop. We opt for exerting greater efforts in getting more ECMO machines alongside our efforts to provide oxygen for thousands who don’t wish to go over the edge.
The writer is an attorney and rabbinical court advocate at Ohr Torah Stone’s Yad La’isha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center for Agunot