Throughout Israel's turbulent history, not a week has gone by without her being a focus of world attention.' The situation of Israeli women, however, has rarely captured the spotlight. In most fields of law, Israeli women enjoy a strong suite of rights and an egalitarian status compared to their sisters in other nations. However, in the domain of divorce law, women are subject to a blatantly discriminatory regime, in which their strictly-limited right to obtain a divorce is grossly inferior to the corresponding right held by Israeli men. Israeli law accords Orthodox rabbinical courts exclusive control over marriage and divorce, and those courts in turn grant full control over divorce to men. No one--not the government, not the courts, not even a rabbi--is authorized to divorce a couple except for the husband. The judicial act of divorce is not constitutive, but merely declarative-the rabbinical court can merely declare that the husband must divorce his wife, and in limited instances, can apply coercive measures in hopes of persuading the husband to grant the divorce. This leaves wives estranged from their husbands yet unable to remarry due to their legal inability to terminate their present marriages. Such women are called agunot: "chained" wives
Yefet, Karin Carmit
"Unchaining the Agunot: Enlisting the Israeli Constitution in the Service of Women's Marital Freedom,"
Yale Journal of Law & Feminism:
2, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol20/iss2/6