“Blacklisting women due to allegations against them is a serious blow to their dignity and civil rights. The instructions [from Yosef to the state rabbinical courts] do not prevent the grave infringement of human rights.”
High Court Decides To Continue To Allow Haredi Rabbis To Use State Powers To Blacklist Alleged Adulterers
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Does Israel really have religious freedom?
Many observers believe it does not, and the country’s secular High Court of Justice showed again last week that those observers are correct when it ruled that official state rabbinical courts can blacklist women – but not men – they believe have committed adultery, putting their names on secret lists that prevent them from marrying ‘pure’ Jews of unblemished linage and effectively preventing them from marrying at all.
In response to a petition filed against that blacklisting, Ha'aretz reported the High Court ruled that Israel’s haredi-controlled state chief rabbinate had sufficiently fixed the problems with the blacklist and, based on that it tossed out the petition filed against it by a woman who divorced in 2002 and only afterward found out that her name had been placed on that blacklist by a state the Rabbinical Court without her knowledge and without the ability for her and her alleged lover to present evidence against the move. Her petition was supported by women’s rights groups who all noted that only women (and any children they may have with a man who is not their husband) are subject to this blacklisting – not men who cheat on their wives.
Petitioners argued that this blacklisting invades women’s privacy and undermines gender equality. Blacklisting also prevents women from forming a new family – a right Israeli law should protect, the petitioners claimed. They also argued state rabbinical courts are not legally allowed to rule on adultery issues when the divorce is, as was in this specific case, consensual.
But Israel is far closer to a theocracy than a democracy, and the claims of the woman and her supporters fell on the High Court’s nearly deaf ears.
State rabbinical court judges receive a blacklist of names of women and men who have – allegedly – committed what we call in the west adultery. Those “adulterers” are blocked by rabbinical the state courts from marrying the person they had the adulterous affair with.
But those state rabbinical courts also prevent a, “adulterous” woman to remarry her husband if they later reconcile.
Even moreso, blacklisted men are blocked from marrying the woman they had had the affair with only if she was married to another Jewish man at the time of the affair. If she was single, or if her husband was not Jewish under halakha, Orthodox Jewish law, (meaning they had been married outside Israel), the “adulterous” male is not prevented from marrying her.
Worse yet, state rabbinical courts use these blacklists without a clear and accountable process that establishes evidence of adultery – meaning some of the people on these blacklists, perhaps the majority of them, have been wrongly accused.
The official state Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, haredi rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, is president of the state’s Supreme Rabbinical Court. To prevent the High Court of Justice from outlawing the adultery lists, he issued new instructions to the state rabbinical courts regarding alleged adulterous spouses. According to those new instructions, the state rabbinical courts will need to have actual, real evidence before a spouse can be classified as adulterous and put on the blacklist, and all of the involved parties – including the alleged third party – will now have the right to present their own evidence and argue it before the state rabbinical court before anyone is placed on the blacklist.
Because Yosef’s new orders are very similar the petitioners’ proposals, former High Court of Justice President Asher Grunis, who headed the high Court’s panel hearing the case, ruled the new orders from Yosef were enough to dismiss the petition, noting that Yosef’s new orders "create symmetry" between men and women because of how they are worded.
But the petitioners argued Yosef’s new orders did not go far enough.
“Blacklisting women due to allegations against them is a serious blow to their dignity and civil rights. The instructions [from Yosef to the state rabbinical courts] do not prevent the grave infringement of human rights,” Susan Weiss, an attorney who is the executive director of the Center for Women’s Justice and who helped the woman and the groups supporting her file the High Court petition, reportedly said.
The High Court ruling allows the woman or other who feel they have been wronged by the state rabbinical courts to petition if the state rabbinical courts' implementation of Yosef's new directives is problematic.