Marriage and Divorce in the Jewish State: Israel's Civil War

Overview

Israel currently has two recognized systems of law operating side by side: civil and religious. Israeli religious courts possess the exclusive right to conduct and terminate marriages. There is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, irrespective of one’s religious inclinations. All Muslims must marry and divorce in accordance with shariya laws, all Catholics in accordance with canon law, and all Jews in accordance with Torah law (halakha). The interpretation and implementation of Torah law is in the hands of the...
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Marriage and Divorce in the Jewish State: Israel's Civil War

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Overview

Israel currently has two recognized systems of law operating side by side: civil and religious. Israeli religious courts possess the exclusive right to conduct and terminate marriages. There is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, irrespective of one’s religious inclinations. All Muslims must marry and divorce in accordance with shariya laws, all Catholics in accordance with canon law, and all Jews in accordance with Torah law (halakha). The interpretation and implementation of Torah law is in the hands of the Orthodox religious establishment, the only stream of Judaism that enjoys legal recognition in Israel. The rabbinic courts strenuously oppose any changes to this so-called status quo arrangement between religious and secular authorities. In fact, religious courts in Israel are currently pressing for expanded jurisdiction beyond personal status, stressing their importance to Israel’s growing religious community.

This book shows how religious courts, based on centuries-old patriarchal law, undermine the full civil and human rights of Jewish women in Israel. Making a broad argument for civil marriage and divorce in Israel, the authors also emphasize that religious marriages and divorces, when they do occur, must benefit from legislation that makes divorce easier to obtain. Making this issue their focal point, they speak to a larger question: Is Israel a democracy or a theocracy?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An important new book on an important issue.”
—Jewish Ideas Daily

“Weiss and Gross-Horowitz’s important book expertly chronicles the stories of six agunot, literally “chained women” – women who wait for years to be released from their unwanted marriages. The authors vividly portray the many problems involved in the divorce process in Israel, in which all divorces of all Jews must go through the state-backed rabbinical court. The narratives about women’s destroyed lives are interwoven with incisive legal-halakhic analysis, Israeli legislative history and political philosophy.”—Lilith

“What to do about get refusal has become, at last, a major issue of concern for the Modern Orthodox community. . . . A timely and useful book. . . . Compulsively readable, gory with injustice. ”—Forward

“The book details the personal stories of six women, trapped for years by vindictive men who abused them mentally, emotionally, and physically, and at the end of the day destroyed their lives forever. Each account tells the story of a specific woman and her personal struggle to become unchained from a recalcitrant husband, some cases lasting almost twenty years. These six women are not all religious, yet due to the nature of divorce in Israel, they were all in the same awful predicament when they chose to end their marriages... A disturbing portrayal of the nature of modern divorce in Israel.”—Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews

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Product Details

Meet the Author

SUSAN M. WEISS is a matrimonial lawyer, NGO founder, and activist. NETTY C. GROSS-HOROWITZ is a senior writer at the Jerusalem Report.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue: Who Are We?
Introduction
The Clueless Agunah
The Scarlet Agunah
The Ping-Pong Agunah
The Accidental Agunah
The Agunah Pawn
The Reluctant Agunah
Human Rights Violations in Israeli Rabbinic Courts
Bibliography •Index
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