There's been a terrible development in the case of the Agunah whose story we featured a couple of days ago. The main judge has suspended himself from the case, accusing the Toenet Rabbanit (female advocate) representing the woman and the Yad L'Isha organization behind her of waging a war against the court in the media. He also accused the woman herself of trying to influence proceedings through the media and through her participation in the film about agunot, 'Mekudeshet,' a few years back.
The result is that the entire case will have to be considered again by a brand-new panel, which will take months at best. The woman has already been an agunah for 4 1/2 years.
This bust-up was already foreshadowed a few months ago, when R. Eli Ben-Dahan, director general of Israel’s rabbinical courts, issued a not-so-veiled threat to Yad L'Isha that the rabbinical courts would boycott its female advocates because "Yad L’Isha has positioned itself as a fist/punch to the husband and a fist to the rabbinical courts." At the time, I commented that Yad L'Isha has clearly been so successful in helping women stand up for their rights and drawing attention to the injustices the court colludes in that the rabbis are feeling threatened. Their lives are being made difficult as it's not so easy anymore to settle cases simply by sacrificing the women, and as their rulings and inaction are actually brought under scrutiny.
This case, apparently, is exactly the excuse they've been waiting for. Because ultimately, the Toenet Rabbanit didn't do anything so dreadful by getting the media on-side and getting the media to publicize this case. The courts have had four and a half years to settle the case on their own steam -- and still, no settlement, certainly no sign of a fair settlement. She was simply using one of the only effective weapons she has to shame the rabbinical court into action, publicity.
The Dayan doesn't like that? He should have settled this case 4 1/2 years ago.
Suspending himself, and thereby condemning the agunah to months, if not years more of mental and emotional torture, is a disgraceful act. He should be able to withstand some negative media (which is entirely earned), just as a judge in a civil court puts up with unwanted media attention. He should be able to separate his feelings against the woman's counsel from the case at hand, for the good of the agunah. But he can't, because this isn't about the agunah: it's about power and control, and cowing the women's advocates into submission.