FILE - A man sits outside the Rabbinical Court in Tel Aviv on November 27, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
FILE – A man sits outside the Rabbinical Court in Tel Aviv on November 27, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90


Tel Aviv – The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court gave permission to a man to marry a second wife after his first wife absconded with their child several years ago, refused to consent to a divorce and refuses to return to Israel.

The couple in question married eight years ago. A year and a half after they were married the husband was involved in a serious road accident and was critically injured and his recovery and rehabilitation took years, to the extent that he is only now in the process of returning to normal life.

Several months after the accident however, his wife flew with their baby to France for a 10-day family visit, but never returned home.

The husband petitioned the courts for the baby to be returned to Israel under the terms of the Hague Convention for international child abduction.

The court ruled in his favor stating that the baby had been kidnapped by the mother and demanded that she return to Israel immediately. The woman appealed the decision to the High Court of Justice which rejected her appeal.

She nevertheless remained in France refusing to return, and then travelled to a third country which does not have an extradition treaty with Israel and is not a signatory to the Hague Convention.

The husband subsequently opened divorce proceedings with the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court but the woman did not respond to the divorce suit.

In Jewish law, a husband must willingly give a bill of divorce and a wife must willingly accept it for the marriage to be terminated.

The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court contacted a rabbinical court in Paris which subsequently located the wife’s father and tried to convince him to have his daughter enter into divorce proceedings, but these efforts ultimately failed.

Following a request by the husband, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court ruled that he may marry a second wife since he is unable to obtain a divorce from his first wife.

“In light of the fact that the two parties have been separated for six years and the location of the woman is not known and she is hiding from the law enforcement authorities, the rabbinical court believes that she is obligated to accept the divorce,” the court ruled.

“Since there is no possibility at this stage of arranging a divorce, the husband must be allowed to remarry and be given dispensation from the decree of Rabbeinu Gershom.”

The decision will require the approval of Chief Rabbi David Lau in his capacity as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court.

Under Jewish law, men may have more than one wife, although the practice was banned for Ashkenazi Jews by a decree of Rabbi Gershom Ben Yehudah in the 11th century. However, a man may be given dispensation from this decree in certain circumstances if he cannot obtain consent from his wife for a divorce,  a measure which is known as the Dispensation of 100 Rabbis.

Divorce refusal by women is not uncommon, although it occurs to a lesser extent than divorce refusal by men, according to activists groups, who also note that there are currently hundreds of open cases of divorce refusal by men.

Women’s rights groups are highly critical of court rulings giving men permission to marry a second wife in the case of a woman’s divorce refusal, pointing out that no such right is available to the hundreds if not thousands of women denied a divorce in Israel and accusing the rabbinical courts of stymieing innovative rulings that would annul a marriage or otherwise release a woman from a failed marriage.

There are approximately 80 requests every year for the dispensation for a man to marry a second wife, of which a handful are approved.

When serving as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said in 2016 that whenever he sees a case of long-term divorce refusal by a woman he grants this dispensation.

As reported by Vos Iz Neias