Missiles Falling, Doors Opening

A post in the Times of Israel by Adv. Osnat Sharon, rabbinical court advocate and director of Yad L’Isha.  Illustrates a piece of the absurd balancing act with which we all live here in Israel:

The following story was shared with me by Rabbinical Court Advocate Dina Raichik, a senior staff member of Yad L’isha: the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center and Hotline, who has been serving clients in southern Israel since the opening of our Beersheba branch in 2012.

Yesterday, I went to the rabbinical court with R, a woman whose domineering husband had refused to grant her a divorce for the past 15 years. R had come to my office in Beersheba about a year ago, shortly after we opened the southern branch. She told me that she had been represented by a number of private lawyers over the years, but other than eating up all of her savings, nothing had been done to further her case. R was still living in the same apartment with her husband, with each having taken over different parts, but she was desperate to get out. “He told me that if I gave up my half of the home he would give me a get [divorce]. The offer has been growing more and more tempting to me lately,” she confided. “I’m just so tired.”In my years of advocacy I have seen tens of women become trapped in this quandary. Many of my clients have been victimized for so many years that all of their self-confidence and emotional strength has been sapped. After years of being beaten down, even the strongest, most accomplished women begin to crack. The signs of victimization begin to show. Denied freedom again and again, unable to start a new life or family causes terrible damage to these women and their children. Some even start to believe that everything is somehow their own fault.

When women like R come to Yad L’isha, we not only provide them with legal representation in the courts, we also provide them with coaching services and the emotional backing they need to regain their self-esteem and stand up to the extortionary demands of their husbands. After dozens of discussions and laborious negotiations which lasted several months, R’s husband and his lawyer finally understood that the newly-empowered R was not going to give in. They understood that I, her advocate, was going to win the chiyyuv get ruling which would compel the granting of the get. And they understood that the time had come to come to an agreement. We drew up a contract in which R’s husband would grant her a divorce, give her half the apartment, and undertake to pay his own way out of his personal debt. The hearing was scheduled for yesterday.

And then missiles began to fall.

The night before the hearing, R was so excited she did not sleep. She arrived at the court as soon as it opened, even though her case was not scheduled to be heard until the late morning hours. Just as we sat down for some coffee, a Code Red alarm sounded; I was startled, but R was undeterred. “I don’t care about being injured by shrapnel, about a wall falling on me,” she said. “Today I will receive my get.”

Suddenly I realized the tremendous privilege I had to be able to accompany women like R through thick and thin; through water and, yes, through fire. The divorce is not just a piece of paper given by the husband, it symbolizes a woman’s freedom, her ability to regain her independence and her right to self-determination.

When it was finally time for R’s hearing, she went in with her head held high – finally, this was going to be her day! Then, just as the rabbis were questioning the couple to ensure that they were both agreeing to the divorce willingly, the missile warning alarm sounded yet again. R stared at the rabbis, unwilling to move; she had waited too long for freedom to have it postponed. She continued to stare at the rabbis. The rabbis remained in their seats. In fact, we all remained in our seats – even as we heard the other rooms emptying out and people scurrying to the bomb shelter. The rabbis continued with the proceedings even as the alarm continued, even as loud “booms” were heard as the missiles landed in an open field right outside of town. But R didn’t hear any of those things. All she heard were the rabbis’ words:  your divorce is final. You are free.

R

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Our Children – and a Ray of Hope

For 18 days the people of Israel, watched and waited, hoped and prayed, that three of our children would once again be embraced by their families, by the entire nation.

Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah – children – murdered in cold blood.

For 18 days we watched in wonder at the dignity of their families as they united the nation, infected all of us with their goodwill and optimism.

For 18 days we hoped and prayed that our boys were indeed kidnapped, that they were spending nightmarish days in a damp and dismal cave somewhere, but we could yet bring them home. They would once again study, laugh, play their guitars, sing their songs, live their lives.

Last night, our hopes were smashed, their families must contend with the pain, the loss, the anguish.

Our hopes and prayers remain with them. They made it clear that what they want more than anything is that the spirit of unity and mutual concern generated over the past 18 days stay with us, flourish and grow.

Update:

Someone just alerted me to this, and it gives us a ray of hope. It’s a Facebook post in English, Hebrew and Arabic though I’ve only copied the English here, by Mohammad Zoabi, and it speaks for itself:

(עברית בהמשך)
(العربية بالكمالة)

It was the end of the school year
I was getting ready for my History Bagrut exam…
I was doing some teen craps
I only expressed my mind, something that every person can do in democratic countries like Israel
I showed sympathy for the 3 Innocent Israelis who were kidnapped by terrorists
I got attacked, criticized and threatened by Arabs and Anti Israelis from all over the globe among them was; MK Haneen Zoabi
My mom reported the police, I had security around me and I had to move to a secured place.
I googled my name in English, I saw breaking news; Israeli Arab teen makes waves after slamming the kidnapping
I googled my name is Hebrew; MK relative Mohammad Zoabi is a proud Zionist-Upsets his Family
I googled my name in Arabic…..I wish I haven’t, I saw; Videos on me being kidnapped and killed, Shameful pictures on me with unbelievable descriptions.
All existed only for speaking up for the Middle East’s only Democracy and speaking up against terrorism
All that was short while before I was informed by reliable security sources that my life is in danger and that there’s an attempt to kidnapp me to the PA Ter. and harm me,
It took me a while to realize it all; I reviewed my self and my beliefs but found nothing wrong about them.
I reviewed the way I expressed my mind; its not the best way but at least I’m not encouraging hate the way Haneen Zoabi does
What i have done was, speaking up my mind, defending my country and my people; I mean if I wouldnt be able to express my love to my country inside my country where else could I express it?
My name is Mohammad Zoabi, 16 year old Israeli Zionist Arab Muslim;
Israeli-I was born in a country called Israel; same way French are born in France, Iranians in Iran. And hell yeah i’m proud for being Israeli
Zionist-Simply I believe in the Jewish people’s right of self determination in their homeland; The land of Israel
Arab-My 1st mother language is Arabic; My Ethnic background is Arab.
Muslim-I believe in one God and respect all God’s prophets and religions; Moses(Judaism), Jesus(Christianity) and Mohammad(Islam)
I see myself as a human being above anything else,a human being who wants to create a better world for all
I Mohammad Zoabi announce that I’m ready to give up my life for the sake of a better future for us, our children and all the coming generations of Mankind.
May Israel be blessed
May peace come upon us and all our Middle Eastren neighbors
May we have a better future full of Peace, love and a want to Co-exist
Always remember; No matter how different we are, we are eventually Human beings who very soon may release the last breath and give the world’s responsibility for the new generation
Remember; Life is too short to have enemies
May you all be blessed,
Praying for a better world for all;

Mohammad Zoabi

 

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Moral Compass Spinning

It seems tough to have an accurate moral compass these days.

One of the most recent manifestations of this phenomenon is an article in incredibly poor taste in the Arutz 7 news site.

Some background to the article:

In the past few months the Authority of Enforcement and Collection initiated a new track at Hotza’ah LePoal (the branch responsible for debt collection, similar to the bailiff’s office in other countries) to facilitate collection of unpaid child support.

Here’s the first piece of moral inversion in the article:

 Advocates for family values, fathers’ and children’s rights were dismayed this week when Israeli television and radio stations began running an advertisement on behalf of the Justice Ministry, trumpeting a new fast track that will assist women in collecting overdue child support payments from their former husbands.

Really? Advocates of “Family Values” and “Children’s Rights” were dismayed by an ad that helps women put food on the tables for their children? Which advocates? And about which particular family values are they dismayed?

To advertise this service and encourage people to make use of it, they agency produced this video:

I’ve encouraged women owed child support to use this service over the few months since its inception, andam  impressed by the efficiency and professionalism of the process.

But, here comes Arutz 7 and paints women trying to support their children as a bunch of militants, living high off the hog at the expense of their children’s fathers. Or perhaps the real point of the article was to use these women – and their children – merely as a platform to bash one of their none-too-favorite politicians, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

Never mind that in doing so the plight of children (not women!) depending on child support payments is distorted. In fact, we are told that the real victims here are the fathers paying child support.

One may argue about whether dressing the mothers in army uniforms was in good taste or even the best way to advertise the service. However, there is no doubt that many mothers struggling to make sure there is enough money to pay the rent – to say nothing of making it through the month – feel that every day is a battle.

Aloong these lines, the only criticism I have of the video is that the lives of many of the women and children I represent don’t look quite so pretty; they aren’t attending ballet lessons even when the fathers are paying child support, since there just isn’t enough money for lessons of that sort and the supermarkets in which they shop don’t look quite so squeaky clean.

Not only does the article fail to even attempt a serious discussion about child support and the failure to pay, but what purports to be an objective news source turns itself into a shill for “father’s rights” groups. With no criticism or fact-checking, the author simply parrots the message of anonymous “father’s rights” groups:

An angry divorced father was quick to edit and upload a counter-video, which speaks about the plight of divorced fathers, who fight to give their children a good home despite having to pay for two households. “For years, you fought for the country,” says the narrator. “Now – the state fights you. Mothers in uniform declare war on you. The ammunition – children. The weapon – courtesy of the state.”

So now, once again, the mothers are where they should be – the bad guys, destroying homes and the very fabric of the State of Israel.

What can I say? It’s a new low, and Arutz 7 should be ashamed.

If Israeli courts reward higher amounts of child support than other countries – and I don’t trust the statistics cited in the article, with no links to any sources –  then that speaks highly for a society which cares about its children’s welfare. At the same time, the steps we take to enforce the child support payments are far less draconian than some other countries, or at least the United States.

When there is not enough money to divide one  home that is limping along financially into two homes, there is never a perfect answer as to how to determine child support.

There is however, a range of reasons for why fathers end up having child support decisions enforced in Hotza’ah le’Poal, and they don’t always have to do with the father not having enough money to make the payments. Not infrequently, non-payment is simply another to make life unpleasant for the mother raising the children on her own. It’s the old – “I’ll do anything for my children but SHE won’t get a penny from me.”

As a free piece of advice I heartily recommend the new service at Hotza’ah LePoal for those owed child support. They are doing a great job, and providing an important service  –  for the kids.

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Dubious Distinction

I’m frequently asked what the divorce rate is Israel.

So, below is an article from the Jerusalem Post with the stats (in real numbers) for 2013 as released by the Rabbinical Courts Administration. Because the statistics are from the Rabbinical Courts, they only relate to divorces between Jews. It would have been nice to see the statistics from the authorities responsible for divorces between Muslims, Christians, and civil dissolution of marriages.

My town, Jerusalem, seems to have the dubious distinction of the most number of divorces.

There was a continued rise in the rate of divorce in 2013, with the Rabbinical Courts Administration announcing on Tuesday night a 5.8 percent increase in the numbers of couples ending their marriages over the 2012 figures.

In total, 11,219 couples got divorced in 2013, compared with 10,602 in 2012.

Jerusalem was the city with the most divorces, with 733 couples formally separating, while 678 couples divorced in Tel Aviv, 502 in Haifa and 492 in Rishon Lezion.

The rabbinical courts, which have exclusive jurisdiction over Jewish marriage and divorce, said it took an average of 96 days to complete a divorce case in 2013, 10 days quicker than a year earlier.

Additionally, the administrations’ special unit for obtaining bills of divorce (gets) for women whose husbands refuse to grant them obtained 159 gets in 2013 from men who had fled the country, compared to 163 in 2012.

There was a significant increase in the number of times the rabbinical courts imposed sanctions on men refusing to give their wives a bill of divorce.

You can read the rest here.

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School Daze

I’m all for being evenhanded, but sometimes it is this very evenhandedness that blinds us to what is really going on, and does not allow us, as a system, to effectively protect children from the damage being inflicted on them.  That was the case in a court-appointed psychologist’s recommendation about where a child should learn, a recommendation rejected by the court.

In this unusual move, Judge Tal Paperny of the Hadera Family Court, rejected the court-appointed psychologist’s recommendations and showed an appreciation for the overall family dynamics. Specifically, without being heavy-handed, he was sensitive to the impact of the mother – currently the custodial parent – on the child of divorce, as she subtly and not so subtly elbowed the  father out of a significant area of the child’s life.

From my perspective, the decision is important since it recognizes the signs of incipient parental alienation, (without naming it) and seeks to nip the phenomenon, if not in the bud, at least before the sapling become a full-grown tree.

In this case, the mother filed a suit that the court allow the child, a 12 year old boy, to be homeschooled.

For any North Americans reading this, it’s worthwhile to point out that while homeschooling in your part of the world often associated with Christian families of a particular social-religious orientation, here in Israel it’s generally families living in a counter-culture lifestyle, whether on their own, or in specific communities.

In any case, in addition to filing with the court, the mother asked the Ministry of Education, – which has a special division to supervise homeschooling – for permission to homeschool the child. To their credit, the staff at the Ministry turned down her request, primarily because of the mother’s failure to involve the father in the process. (Apparently she even failed to mention him in the relevant form!) As policy, the Ministry of Education requests a report from social services in case of divorce or separated parents to ensure that there is cooperation and ongoing contact between the two.

The need for parental cooperation is explained by first, the high degree of parental involvement and supervision required by homeschooling, and second, to ensure that two sets of eyes are on the child, to see that the system agrees with him, and that the child’s will and well-being are being served by the homeschooling.

What’s interesting here for those of us involved in family conflicts is that we see how people become so entrenched in their own animosity to their former spouses that they actually sabotage their own goals. The mother was so inflexible and involved in a zero-sum game with the father – she actually stated to the authorities that she would not so much as allow the father into her home – that despite the fact that she was very ideologically committed to homeschooling, her steadfast unwillingness to involve the father in the child’s education meant that she effectively guaranteed that the authorities would deny her request.

More shocking to me, at some point she actually said that if the court didn’t approve home schooling, she no longer wanted custody of the child! Continue reading

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Got the Get

I posted a while back about Gital Dodelson, and her campaign to receive a get from her husband.
So, I was happy to see the following article in the Times of Israel:

NEW YORK – Gital Dodelson, the “chained” woman featured on the front page of the New York Post last fall, says she has received a get, or religious writ of divorce, from her husband.

The announcement appeared Wednesday afternoon on a Facebook page dedicated to helping Dodelson obtain a get and was confirmed by a publicist who has worked with the Dodelson family.

In a story than ran in the Post on Nov. 4, 2013 and in subsequent media interviews, Dodelson detailed her struggle to obtain a religious divorce from her ex-husband, Avrohom Meir Weiss, whom she had divorced in civil court in August 2012.

According to traditional Jewish law, or halachah, a woman must obtain a get from her husband to be considered divorced; women whose husbands deny them a get are called agunot, or chained wives.

Shira Dicker, the publicist who has worked with the Dodelson family in their public campaign to compel Weiss to give the get, said the pressure finally worked.

“The community pressure really just began to multiply, and then something changed,” Dicker told JTA.

Dodelson’s claim of having received the get could not be independently verified with Weiss, who is a great-grandson of the late Orthodox luminary Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.

Dicker said Dodelson will continue to advocate for the countless Orthodox women chained to recalcitrant husbands.

“The family wants to remain as aguna advocates,” Dicker said. “It doesn’t end with Gital’s get.”

My wishes to Ms. Dodelson, her son, and also to her former husband, with every blessing in forging their new lives.

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New Woman

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

In anticipation, the Israeli women’s organization, Na’amat, produced a video with Israeli singer Yardena Arazi.

Basically, the words of the song encourage women in abusive relationships to get up and leave, and describe the process of gathering strength from saying no to the violence; thus, the title, The New Woman.

One of the nice aspects of the video is that it features prominent women in Israeli public life, including retired Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, and tennis star Shahar Peer. Parenthetically, when Judge Dorner was still a District Court judge, and when the issue of domestic violence was not really on anybody’s radar screen, she gave some important decisions protecting women.

 

At the time of the making of the video, 14 women had been killed by their partners in the past year.

Yesterday, Nov. 24th, a 15th woman was killed by her husband in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. May her memory be a blessing and her family somehow find their way through the darkness to find comfort.

 

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