A firestorm has arisen in Israel after a man who has been sanctioned by a rabbinical court in Haifa was allowed to enter the Knesset this week, upon the invitation of a right-wing American-born Israeli politician.
Divorce in Israel is the exclusive province of the religious courts, although both civil courts and religious courts may determine the financial consequences of a divorce as well as child custody issues.
A Jewish religious divorce requires that the husband choose to provide the wife with a bill of divorce known as a get. If a Jewish wife who is separated from her husband does not receive (and accept) a get, she cannot remarry in a religious ceremony. Indeed, if she legally remarries in a secular ceremony before receiving a get, she is considered an adulteress under Jewish law.
Rabbinical courts in Israel have issued sanctions to seek to compel husbands to deliver a get to their estranged wives. Thus, the Jerusalem Post reports that the Haifa Rabbinical Court issued an order of social ostracism against the husband last year for refusing to give his wife a bill of divorce for two years. Specifically, the court ordered that people should not host the husband in question and should distance themselves from him as far as possible. The court also revoked his driver's license and banned him from leaving the country. Subsequently, the court ordered that his picture, name and other details be published so as to shame him publicly for refusing to divorce his wife.
Nonetheless, the husband was invited to the Knesset by an Israeli Knesset Member, and his appearance there aroused the ire of other members, two of whom were ejected from the Knesset plenum because of their “loud and vociferous” protestations.
A Knesset legal adviser then advised that the social sanctions used by the rabbinical court due to divorce recalcitrance do not come within the boundaries of the authority granted to the Knesset speaker to prevent the entry of someone for security and public order reason.
The entire issue of the use and abuse of the get system continues to arouse great controversy among in Israel and throughout the worldwide Jewish community.