Back to the Middle Ages

Something is very wrong. My calendar states that the present year is 2018 on the civil calendar and 5779 on the Hebrew calendar.

Yet after reading the abominable news today of an historic punishment issued by the Haifa Rabbinical Court I am convinced 100% that we have moved back to the middle ages when cavemen walked among us.

More than eight years ago a Jewish man attempted to give his wife a “get”… a religious bill of divorcement which she, up to the present time, has refused to accept. The husband cannot re-marry without her consent.

In Jewish religious law, a husband who refuses to give his wife a “get” can be forced to do so by a rabbinical court and he can sit in prison until he decides to issue the wife a “get”.

Now, the Haifa Rabbinical Court has issued a new ruling, the very first one in our history. They have decided that if a woman refuses to accept the “get” from her husband, all penalties can be applied to her, including a prison sentence.

This is the dreadful case now before us. The wife, who was a teacher in the Haifa schools, has been suspended from her job without pay by the Ministry of Education which is required to uphold a rabbinical decision. Rabbinical courts are controlled by the government of the State of Israel. Unlike other countries we have no separation between religion and state. We are prisoners of the rabbis.

She cannot apply for a passport. She is forbidden to leave the country. Her driver’s license has been suspended. The rabbinical court has threatened to reveal her name publicly and all the newspapers in Israel will know of this shameful act. Furthermore, she has been given a set date by which she must consent to receiving the “get” or she will be arrested and sent to prison until she gives her consent..

I am scratching my head.  Oh, citizens of Israel, is this the Israel we know and love?

We are being pushed back into the middle ages when humanity was uncommon, when adversaries were clubbed to death, when alleged criminals were stoned to death, when hunters went into the forests in search of animals to kill for food.

Even then, in the middle and medieval ages, Jews were humane and thoughtful about one another. They were bound in good conscience to Hillel’s golden rule… “that which is hateful unto thyself do not do to thy neighbor”. Centuries later it was translated to “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

I am regrettably convinced that those rules were defied by rabbis who seek personal power over the lives of the Jewish people. I am furthermore convinced that such a rabbinical court decision could never have been made by the great a-political Chief Rabbis Kook and Herzog, of blessed memory. They were giants who loved and respected their fellow Jews. Hayu zmanim. Those were the days. Sadly they have vanished.

Is it humane to condemn a woman who still loves her husband and thereby refuses to accept a bill of divorcement from him? Is it humane to suspend her from her job, to deprive her of traveling and of driving? How is it expected that she will be able to provide for her daily needs and sustenance?

I hope that even members of our religious communities will see the injustice here. The law of “get” was intended for the husband to give. There is no law (until today) which requires a wife to accept it.

I am tearing up the calendar which hangs on my wall. Its dates are out-of-date. We have been pushed back by uncaring rabbis into the middle ages.

Now there is nothing left for me to do but to sell my apartment and go in search of an empty cave. Maybe Anglo-Saxon realty can find one for me. I have already bought a leopard skin to keep me warm!




About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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