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Denying Your Wife A Divorce Can Get You Arrested In Israel

Updated, June 29

Non-Israeli Jewish women can seek a divorce in the Israeli rabbinical courts, including in cases where the husband refuses to grant one, under a new law passed by the Knesset.

The new government-sponsored law, which will extend the reach of the state-run religious legal bodies beyond the borders of the Jewish state, is designed to help agunot — “chained” women who have been refused a religious bill of divorce and cannot remarry under Jewish law, the Times of Israel reported.

The law will be in effect for three years. It was brought to a final vote after a controversial passage was removed, which stated the law would have applied to civil unions as well as Jewish religious marriage ceremonies. The softened government bill also placed limits on the jurisdiction of the Israeli religious courts in debating international cases, restricting their reach to the divorce itself, rather than other divorce-related matters, such as financial agreements and child custody.

The bill extends the option to seek Israeli rabbinical legal intervention to Jewish women whose husbands refuse to grant a divorce.

Under Jewish law, a marriage cannot be dissolved unless the man consents to give a get. Rabbinical courts cannot force a man to give his wife a get, but in Israel, they can impose harsh sanctions.

Update note: On June 29, this story’s headline was updated for clarity.

Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at fisher@forward.com, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher

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