Cabinet Acts to Ease Divorce in Mixed Marriages, Establish ‘ombudsman’

The Cabinet approved draft legislation yesterday that would enable partners in a mixed marriage to obtain a divorce from a civil court if a religious court refuses to exercise jurisdiction in the case. Under present Israeli law, divorce, like marriage, comes under the jurisdiction of religious courts. Some mixed couples have found it impossible to obtain a divorce because the religious courts concerned ruled themselves incompetent to deal with the matter. The legislation introduced yesterday by Minister of Justice Yacov Shapiro would empower the President of the Supreme Court to determine the specific religious or district court having jurisdiction in each individual case. The Attorney-General would be asked to inquire if a religious court agrees to litigate. A Cabinet majority rejected a proposal from Religious bloc ministers to exclude Israeli Jews from the terms of the bill.

The Cabinet also decided to create the office of “Ombudsman” to investigate complaints by citizens against the State or other public bodies which do not fall into categories normally adjudicated by the courts. The ombudsman will be appointed by the Knesset (Parliament) and will act within the State Controller’s office. The institution originated in the Scandinavian countries and has since been adopted by several other European countries.

The Cabinet agreed to re-route a new speedway planned to link Tel Aviv with Lydda Airport because the original route passed close to Kfar Chabad, a village of an ultra-Orthodox Hassidic sect. Residents of the village petitioned for a change in route because they claimed the heavy traffic on Saturdays would interfere with their Sabbath observance.

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