Abused friend


My wife, daughter, and I are on a much needed vacation in Haifa for a week. We arrived here on Friday before Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), in time to order prepared food and go shopping for groceries. I love how happy it makes our daughter to go to the beach with both of her parents.

Anyway, it’s difficult for me to fully relax and enjoy our vacation, as I’ve been preoccupied with some very heavy issues, especially related to a family friend of ours who fled from her abusive husband just days ago.

Thinking of our friend

Last week, we found out that this friend, who got married several months ago to an ultra-Orthodox man has been psychologically, sexually, and physically abused by him. Some of these things you just cannot make up – her husband took over our friend’s computer and tablet, and he deleted contacts from her phone without her permission. Also, he took to tracking her physical location on Google Maps.

What’s particularly shocking to me is how quickly all of this transpired. Keep in mind that they’ve only been married for several months; and he’s already accused her of infidelity (utterly absurd to anyone who knows her), merely because she happens to have male coworkers.

The Jewish context

There is so much wrapped up in her story, and, sadly, there are many distinctly Jewish and Israeli elements to it that are profoundly disturbing.

Traditional Jewish divorce

First of all, it’s important to know that in Jewish religious law, which is called halakhah, married couples can only get divorced if the husband initiates the process. So… too many abusive Jewish husbands take advantage of this loophole and deny their wives the divorces they desireor: demand that their wives pay them to get divorced.

Not only that, but according to halakhah, a husband can father children with other women without being penalized for it. However, if a married Jewish woman bears a child fathered by a man other than her husband, that child will automatically be assigned the religious status of ‘mamzer’, a child of an illicit relationship, which carries tremendous religious penalties with it for the child’s entire life.

I don’t want to get into all of the technical religious details here, but you can see where I’m going with this, right?

Limited dating pool

Another thing that I’ve been thinking about is this unfortunate reality: choosing to restrict one’s self to dating only members of a small religious community dramatically limits one’s marital options. This is especially true for “older” singles, converts, people of color, people with disabilities, etc. who are considered less socially desirable in insular religious societies.

Of course, such discrimination does not only exist in Orthodox Jewish society. However, it’s terrible that sincerely devout, God-loving women like our friend are statistically more likely to find themselves married to abusive husbands than they would be if they were not limited to this much smaller and less accepting dating pool.

Jewish divorce in Israel

I don’t know what direction our friend’s story is going to take, but she’s planning on filing for divorce… And hopefully, she’ll do so before her husband takes the initiative and files against her.

In Israel, you see, married couples can either get divorced through the civil courts or the religious rabbinical courts, depending upon which courts the divorces are filed at. And, sadly, the religious courts tend to favor men over women, empowering husbands to keep their wives religiously “chained” to marriages that they want to leave… indefinitely unable to remarry.

My heart breaks.

83 thoughts on “Abused friend”

  1. This is just awful. They’re are sure dark clouds hovering over marital bliss. Women are treated unequal it seems. Hope your friend will be alright.

  2. I am sorry about your friend David. She needs support and tenderness. I didn’t know how difficult it was to divorce according to the Jewish law. I really hope that you’ll enjoy your holidays and you’ll relax.

  3. I never believe in any religion, any church or whatever you call them.
    All such ‘ORGANISATION’ is nothing but a mean to have more and more control. And history told us, whoever on top in such organisations are usually people mentally, physiologically SICK!
    Do we wonder why all religions have RULES out of nowhere, which they use God’s name to cover up!
    I believe in God, I have God in my heart, and HE/SHE does not fit into any religion’s box. And I don’t need any Priest to make the connection for me.
    Time is changing, all this religion pretext together with current social economical system will FALL!

  4. so sad about your friend, so sad… for this week, leave the praying and interceding to me, I will do it in your stead.
    You– be where you are, in every moment, be.
    See how your daughter and wife are there. Enjoy that. I promise I will pray for your friend. Enjoy,,, David. Blessings. Happy Summering.

  5. This is heartbreaking, David. Where are we as a species when we are still mired in such stupid customs?
    In our country, people of one particular religion (I am not mentioning the name, but it is generally known which one it is), do not follow the Indian Penal Code, and are allowed to follow their own religious laws. Thus while polygamy is illegal by the IPC, it is allowed in the religious law. One of my friend (from another religion) married a man from the above religion, for love (meaning, it was not an arranged marriage, so that she could blame other people for having pushed her into it). The man kept taking on wives and mistresses, and when confronted, said that he was allowed to it according to the law his people follow. And since, in the throngs of love, my friend had converted to her husband’s religion, I understand there was some trouble with starting a divorce procedure as well. She finally got out, but after much trouble.

  6. Can traditional men be all this stark raving bonkers.
    The curse of abuse is so pervasive and it plays out it’s deranged energy in horrific ways.
    Why would a man find pleasure in his wife living a limited life.
    It becomes even more constricting when her religion and society endorses this behaviour.
    I’m sorry for your friend’s circumstances and pray that she gets the support and resources to cut all ties with this abusive relationship and that her own sanity is restored.
    Praying for you to.
    Make the best of your vacation. Seaside getsways are the best.

  7. Itโ€™s total nonsense. The only way youโ€™re gonna stay with someone, have a successful marriage with someone, is if it is done out of free will. Even if you stay with someone, what sort of marriage would it be if they feel the need to track your whereabouts every minute of the day?
    Itโ€™s strange here because you often have the impression that some people were trapped by marriage. As though the institution itself was more important than the people. But Iโ€™m talking a hundred years ago. Weโ€™ve evolved.

  8. David, By voicing your thoughts on the injustice your friend has to endure, you’ve helped. Not just your friend but women who find themselves stifled by societal norms. Kudos to your friend for having the courage to speak up. Thank you for writing

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