JERUSALEM (Jan. 29)
Israel’s chief rabbis have politely refused to do anything to ease the religious divorce laws which often impose severe hardships on women. There is no civil divorce in Israel.
The two Chief Rabbis, Avraham Shapiro, Ashkenazic, and Mordechai Eliahu, Sephardic, received a delegation representing women’s organizations today to hear their plea for change. But according to Arye Rosenzweig of the Tel Aviv University law faculty, one of three Orthodox lawyers who discussed the problem with the rabbis, Shapiro and Eliahu were “sympathetic” but claimed there was little they could do. Of about 15,000 divorce petitions filed each year in Israel, only 5,000 are resolved. In many cases one partner, most often the woman, has to wait years for a divorce decree because the other spouse refuses to agree to terms. The religious courts, which have sole jurisdiction, usually will not grant a divorce if one spouse refuses to agree.
Rosenzweig said at a press conference here today that the rabbis were unable to comprehend the problems of the secular public in Israel and are not willing to tackle them. He said the women’s delegation tried to persuade the Chief Rabbis that halacha (religious law) could be used to change the situation but the rabbis rejected that idea.