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Israel Supreme Court Rules Against Rabbinical Court in Divorce Case

The Israel Supreme Court, in a precedent-establishing decision, today recognized civil marriages performed abroad as contracts that cannot be unilaterally revoked. Previously, civil marriages were viewed as valid only for the purpose of financial claims.

The decision came in a divorce case appealed from the Supreme Rabbinical Court. The rabbinical decision had permitted the husband to divorce his first wife without her consent and marry another woman because the first marriage was civil. The chief rabbis had furthermore ordered the wife to accept the divorce.

On an appeal of this decision by the wife, the Supreme Court unanimously voted to restrain the chief rabbis from approving the remarriage; Noting that, although it was incompetent to quash a rabbinical court judgment, the Supreme Court staked that it was competent to declare that such a marriage would constitute bigamy under secular law. Justice Silberg further observed that, had the Court decided otherwise in the case, Israel would become a haven for any Jew wishing to free himself from a civil marriage that had become irksome.

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