Rabbinical Courts: ‘Gett’ Movie Demonizes Us

The Batei Din Rabbaniyim, or Rabbinical Courts, held their annual educational training conference for dayanim – or rabbinical judges – last week. What made this year’s conference unique was the fact that for the first time, serious thought was given to improving the courts’ image, in the face of their extremely negative portrayals in film and on television.

The dayanim, who are not generally known as avid filmgoers, viewed the 2014 film “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” – which was selected as the Israeli entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but was not nominated, and which has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.

They also watched an investigative report on the Batei Din recently aired on a Channel 2 investigative program. They discovered – according to a press communique issued by the Rabbinical Courts Management – that they are being “massively badmouthed and besmirched,” to the point that in the eyes of some the public, they have a “demonic” image.

“Gett,” the Courts Management said, presents “unrealistic and absurd extreme situations” to make the judges appear heartless.

For example, there is no basis for a scenario in which dayanim throw a couple out of the court because the woman did not provide a proper reason for forcing a gett, or divorce decree, on her husband, the rabbis explain.

Dayanim would not use security men to forcibly eject a woman who has just suffered bitter disappointment when her husband decided not to grant her the gett at the last moment, as occurs in the film. No dayan would say “know your place, woman.” No dayan would punish a man or woman by barring him from contacting the court for 24 months.

Unlike what the film shows, proceedings in the courts do not usually drag out for years, and the courts do not hesitate to use the police to bring a defendant to court, if he fails to do so on his own accord.

This is our ‘Jenin, Jenin’!

“The makers of the film carried out a successful marketing move at the expense of the rabbinical courts,” according to the Rabbinical Courts Management. The dayanim, it charged, are “presented in a grotesque manner.”

“This is no more than propaganda. ‘Gett’ is the ‘Jenin, Jenin’ of the Rabbinical Courts, no less!”, exclaimed the courts’ statement – drawing a comparison to an infamous film by an Israeli Arab director that libelously alleged that IDF carried out atrocities in the 2002 Battle of Jenin.

The dayanim say that while there are cases involving gett refusers that do drag out – these are not numerous, and great efforts are made to solve them as quickly as possible.

They also explain: “Many of the agunot or mesoravot gett lead secular or traditional lifestyles, and yet it is important for them to receive a halachically kosher gett. There is no law in Israel that forbids a married woman, who is no longer interested in married life with her husband, to develop ‘a new relationship’ even without receiving a gett from him. Nor is there any law that prevents that woman from bringing children to the world from that relationship, and the courts’ verdicts even give the partners in these relationships various rights as common law couples, or ‘yeduim betzibur.’”

The rabbis also note that a gett can only be forced upon an individual if there are halachically-recognized justifications for the divorce. Sometimes, they note, it is the man who seeks to divorce, because he is interested in a younger woman, whereas his wife of many years seeks to save the marriage. In such cases, the beit din turns to psychologists and other professional to asses whether the marriage can be preserved.

The beit din does not try to force such a process on a marriage that is unsalvageable, however.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply