Earlier this week, Israel’s rabbinical courts released their annual statistics on divorces granted in the country, noting a very slight uptick over last year. The statistics also identified the number of divorces granted to women whose husbands had left the country, as well as the number of “recalcitrant husbands” who were sanctioned by the courts for refusing to grant a divorce to their wives.
The latter statistics are relevant because marriage and divorce in Israel is governed by Jewish law (halacha), and divorces fall purely within the province of the country’s rabbinical courts. To obtain a divorce, both parties to the marriage must agree. In practice, this often means that a woman who wants a divorce (for any reason, including spousal abuse) cannot obtain one without her husband’s consent. Courts are authorized to sanction “recalcitrant husbands” who refuse to agree to a divorce, but this process typically takes years of court hearings.
Shortly after the statistics were released, several women’s groups in Israel questioned their validity. In particular, the groups claimed that the number of sanctioned husbands badly underestimated the number of husbands nationwide who refused to grant a divorce. The groups also questioned the statistics showing that 211 women were granted divorces in 2016 after their husbands fled the country, noting that the special court unit charged with administering such divorces would have granted almost one per workday–an impossibly high amount.