Woman refused divorce for 17 years goes on hunger strike

Zvia Gordetsky’s protest comes as Knesset postpones discussion of bill allowing state to annul marriages of women being denied a get


A woman who has been refused a divorce by her husband for 17 years has started a hunger strike outside the Knesset after the government postponed a discussion of a bill that would allow the state to annul the marriages of women who are being denied a get.

Zvia Gordetsky’s husband has spent 16 years in jail for his behaviour – a sentence handed down by a rabbinical court - but prison time has not changed his mind.

Mrs Gordetsky, 53, remains married.

She said: “I need a solution. I’ve waited 17 years, that’s long enough.

“I’d like the religious and ultra-Orthodox MKs to come here and explain to me why they oppose this law. Why should it bother them if I get my freedom? This law doesn’t undermine the rabbinate, because the rabbinical court itself said the man must grant me a divorce.”

Discussion of the bill, sponsored by MK Yael Cohen Paran, of the Zionist Union, was postponed for three months. The bill is considered very unlikely to pass, due to opposition from religious parties in the coalition.

However, Mr Paran’s bill received support from a significant number of opposition MKs, and is based on a proposal by Professor Berachyahu Lifshitz, an expert in Jewish law at Hebrew University.

In practice, the bill would allow the state to annul a marriage where one party has refused to divorce the other for more than a year.

It would take advantage of the fact that under Jewish law, marriage is a contract which must be finalised by a financial payment – usually the wedding ring that husband gives to his wife.

The new law would allow the  government to retroactively take the money used to buy the ring, invalidating the marriage contract.

Alisa Coleman is a social activist who has been supporting Mrs Gordetsky during her hunger strike.

She said: “She is a gentle woman. Her story is heart-breaking . Her husband was abusive and she is waiting to be free. She has been paying off his debts as well as bringing up four sons.

“The rabbis of the Bet Din have to find a way of releasing her as her husband will never do it.

“When there is a halachic will there is a halachic way. It is time that rabbis all over the world make real efforts to release all chained women .Halacha is meant to protect not keep people prisoner.”

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll also visited Mrs Gordetsky during her strike on Tuesday.

She said: “Annulling a marriage is an option. It can be solved if the mechanisms available are used. It is unacceptable for a woman to walk down the aisle into what is essentially a jail cell.”


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