In many societies, women’s rights in marriage include the right to obtain a divorce no matter the reasons for divorce. However, in some societies, religious laws govern how and when a divorce can be granted. This is the case in Israel where only Orthodox rabbis can sanction or dissolve a marriage.
The story of one Jewish woman’s quest for a divorce is told in the film, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. The film’s title refers to the divorce document, a gett, which can only be delivered to a woman after consent from a rabbi. This film may be the starting point for your next research paper on law, religion or women’s rights.
Marriage and divorce
A good place to go for an overview on any research paper topic is Questia. This site offers its subscribers the ability to read full text books, articles and newspapers while taking notes and saving sources. With more than 83,000 academic books and more than 10 million articles from more than a thousand of the world’s leading publishers, Questia is your single destination for academic and professional research.
One example of what you will find here is the book, Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States, by Kristin Celello.
After World War I, the growing number of failed marriages in the U.S. led to an approach of viewing marital success as work. Examining the marriage counseling profession, advice columns in women’s magazines, movies, and television shows, Celello describes how professionals and the public worked together to define the nature of marital work throughout the twentieth century.
Regarding the role of women in achieving marital success Celello said, “The long-standing belief that women have a special responsibility for the health of their relationships lives on today, as many social conservatives champion the cause of marriage promotion, particularly for low-income women. Evidence suggests that many current marriage programs counsel women that it is primarily their job to find marriageable men and to hold on to them at all costs.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
The film takes place in the present day, primarily in the court where a panel of judges presides over the case of Viviane Amsalem who wishes to divorce her husband, Elisha who refuses to grant her a divorce. The title role of Viviane Amsalem is played by Ronit Elkabetz, who co-wrote and directed the film with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz. This is the third film created by the Elkabetz’ that has featured the character of Viviane.
Manohla Dargis outlined the story and impact of the film in a February 12, 2015, article for NYTimes.com, “Review: In ‘Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,’ a Woman Fights for Her Freedom.”
The story unfolds through the testimony of the witnesses, the arguments and the counterarguments in the case.
“As one witness after another testifies about Viviane and Elisha’s marriage, her virtue, his rectitude, it becomes clear that divorce here isn’t a personal choice, but a matter for God and a people,” Dargis said.
Divorce and Jewish law
Edmund Sanders illustrated how Jewish law governs divorce in his July 26, 2013, article for LATimes.com, “Israel divorce law traps women in marriages that died long ago.” In his article, Sanders told the story of Tamar Tessler whose marriage has been held in limbo for more than 30 years.
While Tamar resides in Jerusalem, her husband has lived in the United States for decades. Because Tessler’s husband refuses to agree to a divorce, she has raised her daughter as a single mother without any of the legal benefits that would be due to a woman of single marital status.
Even if you entered into a civil marriage, under Jewish law, consent is required to end a marriage.
“As has been the case for centuries, a Jewish divorce is not final in Israel until men deliver handwritten divorce decrees into the cupped hands of the women, who then must hold the paper aloft. A rabbi tears the document, called a gett, into pieces, which are then filed for record-keeping,” Saunders explained.
Rabbis have the option of putting pressure on a reluctant spouse but they rarely exercise the option. According to Saunders the courts typically uphold the need for consent even in cases of abuse or neglect.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is now playing in theaters across the U.S. Check for locations and times at MusicBoxFilms.com.
Do you have any experience with divorce laws in other countries? Tell us in the comments.