Sunday, February 05, 2006

Damned if they do, damned if they don't

Just over a year ago, Bloghead noted that Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, the director general of Israel’s rabbinical courts, told an event for Yad L'Isha -- the Israeli organisation which helps agunot -- that
“Recently Yad L’Isha has positioned itself as a fist/punch to the husband and a fist to the rabbinical courts... The day isn’t far when the rabbinical courts will boycott the organization. If Yad L’Isha turns Eli Ben-Dahan and the Dayanim into their great enemies – you will have wasted your work....”
At the time, we translated this as,
'you’re making life too difficult for us, it’s no longer as easy as it was to settle these cases by sacrificing the wives. We’re beginning to feel threatened – time to get rid of these feminists before they really start getting uppity.'
Well, now the rabbinical courts have made good on Ben Dahan's promise -- and gone one better. Not only are they boycotting Yad L'Isha, they are apparently breaking off ties with any and all organizations which fight for the rights of the agunot:
A spokesman for the management of the rabbinical courts said that the council was "reexamining its relations with women's organizations that claim to protect the rights of agunot."
Rabbinical judges David Malka and Avraham Sheinfeld, both members of the six-man council, told The Jerusalem Post that there had been no official announcement.
However, both men admitted that rabbinical judges were wary of their relations with the women's organizations...
Malka said that there was a lot of bad blood between the judges and the organizations. "We are bitter after all the attacks made by the organizations on the judges."
Unfortunately, there's been more than good reason for the organizations to challenge and attack the judges, who have routinely allowed men to blackmail their wives and keep them in unhappy marriages for decades, encouraged women to give up money that other courts have ruled are owed to them and generally treated too many women with contempt. That the judges react in this way show it's all about their ego. As judges, they are not beyond criticism, reproach or challenge and the fact they think they are, and that they can get away with this behavior, is deeply disturbing.
And if anyone doubted the court's lack of understanding of the women who come before them, you need only continue reading the esteemed judge Malka's comments to the Post, where he unashamedly
admitted that he encourages women to relinquish child support payments owed by the husband or other monetary obligations in order to facilitate the giving of a get (divorce certificate).
"Listen, this is money that she never earned," explained Malka. "Only in theory does it belong to her.
"For instance, according to the law the wife is entitled to half of a man's pension rights even though she never worked a day in her life. I do not think she should remain an aguna because she is stubborn about receiving her half."
That's right, according to judge Malka a woman who spends her life bringing up her family and looking after what is, after all, her husband's home as well has 'never worked a day in her life' and is not entitled to any financial security, and their children, apparently, do not deserve financial support from their father because it's their mother doing the asking. Not that his opinion should really matter; note to judge Malka, women are entitled to this money not by theory, but -- as you yourself noted -- BY LAW. That you think your job as a judge paid by the state is to talk them out of their legal rights is beyond presumptuous.
Of-course, I was being generous before -- it's not really about the judges' easily bruised feelings. With this move, the rabbinical courts are using the strongest means they have to very consciously pressure the women and the women's organizations into shutting up and just allowing them to continue colluding in the ruin of women's lives in peace and quiet, without having to answer to the public for their rulings and actions. But there's no use in the women shutting up; in the years when the women kept quiet or operated more quietly, nothing was done for them either. They're damned if they do, damned if they don't. I hope they do because the rabbis' latest reaction is the surest sign yet that they are feeling the heat and the public pressure to change their ways.

(Via OOSJ)

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