On the family unit in the era of 'political correctness'

In the age of political correctness, the identities dictated by Western culture are not determined by the validity of a nation, or religious or traditional positions. This is an attempt to create new types of centers of power and control in which the society asks itself not what a person’s rights are as an individual, but to which group he belongs. The terms are only those of “oppressed” and “oppressor”, with no individual cases. Feminism has also been mobilized in order to establish this narrative.

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Tova Even Chen | September 10, 2017, 10:39 AM

Tova Even Chen - Candidate for the 21st. Knesset from Zehut

In the age of political correctness, the identities dictated by Western culture are not determined by the validity of a nation, or religious or traditional positions. This is an attempt to create new types of centers of power and control in which society asks itself not what a person’s rights are as an individual, but to which group he belongs, and according to this affiliation, how to relate to him. If in earlier periods it was a matter of different classes, from the king to the lowest subject, today it seems that there are mainly two poles: the oppressor and oppressed. The ruling on the infiltrators points to the absurdity. When the court identifies the job seekers as an “oppressed” minority group, the residents of South Tel Aviv immediately receive the status of oppressor and occupier. The oppression committed by the state by flooding a third of the city with invaders who must be expelled is something that the court and the architects of intentional worldwide chaos are unable to see.


Feminism has been mobilized for the struggle to blur identity and dismantle the family unit

In order to establish this narrative, feminism has long been mobilized. While the movement was originally intended to give women the right to their bodies, their possessions and desires, we now find ourselves in a kind of growing struggle in which women are barricaded and have to try to protect their status as an oppressed and persecuted minority, while the men who have been caught in this equation as oppressor and ruler can escape this characterization without highlighting and sharpening their emotions, and to expecting that by virtue of this exit from the emotionless macho closet, they will manage through the grace of the public and the court to bring about a change in the attitude towards fathers and husbands which is revealed in all its ugliness in the courtrooms.

They serve in tanks but don’t have to pay for child support?

In light of this comparison, it is no wonder that women are simultaneously fighting for their right to serve in a tank with men, because their “desires” must be met, while at the same time refusing to take upon themselves the support of their children based on rules of charity, claiming that in this specific area, the conservative/religious approach that only obligates the father in child support must be adopted, even though this is easily refuted.

The ways to combat this phenomenon are outside the courts

Families in crisis are still families.

In the early nineties I was privileged to be included in the first group of rabbinic pleaders. Despite this, I have to differentiate myself and call myself a “familist”.

At first, I naively thought that I could make good use of all the halachic and legal knowledge I had acquired during my studies, which were fascinating. In fact, for the first time, women were given the opportunity to study the depths of Jewish law, which was amazing journey. But the encounter with the couples and the courts, the dayanim, the bureaucracy, the procrastination, the jurisdictional fights, the objective difficulty of getting men and women to square the circle – to take a family and divide it – literally; this meeting was less fascinating. Within a few years I realized that most of the conflicts are not matters of “agunot”, “get refusal,” or “violence,” and that in most of these conflicts there is almost no need to reach far-reaching halakhic rulings.  The vast majority of the disputes can be solved. The last place they want and need to go to have their lives decided for them is the legal system. Entering the courtroom effectively detracts from the fundamental freedom of the family.

The court decided and the heart remained shattered

A family conflict, one that has not been dealt with and has not had emotional and professional work done in order to provide the family with the tools to continue on its way, even separately, from a place of acceptance and inclusion, is a conflict that will continue to bleed and its ripples will continue to affect the extended family and all those involved. At the end of the day, there are millions of people walking around Israel with shattered hearts.

Between 1999 and 2005, I led a start-up program (Maavarim) that was recognized by the Ministry of Justice and the Rabbinical Courts, where we implemented a unique mediation service as part of the basket of services provided by rabbinical courts in the south of the country. The model actually offers a certain decentralization of legal services by way of open tenders, in such a way that the franchisees can compete with each other, but offer their services at a uniform price. The criteria were determined professionally and through a steering committee of leading names in Jewish law and the family. The institute was designed to serve as a laboratory to train family mediators from all walks of life, and also included a research and documentation arm. The guidelines for dayanim and judges were determined with sensitivity, and included detailed guidance on how to identify the dynamics of the conflict even when it had been in court for years.

This is a fair procedure, in which the mediation is done by a pair of mediators so that there is a balance in the room, in which the experience is not one of “reaching an agreement”, but rather settling the dispute so that the couple can find the best solution for their family on their own. A process that was much easier to manage once the legislation in the field was not structured in a discriminatory manner (in the areas of custody, child support, and division of property), but made it more possible more than any other way to restore the empathy of each side to the situation of others in the conflict and to dissolve the vengeance and insensitivity we know so well in divorce proceedings.

The results were not long in coming, and within a year we discovered that there was almost no limit to the power of the procedure, even in cases where we initially thought that we would not deal with them because they had lasted for more than a decade. There was almost no dropout from the procedure, and the project's reputation also reached couples who chose to return their case to the authority of the Rabbinical Court only in order to receive this service.

Who objects? What should be done?

There is no doubt that the the help of legislation is needed to resolve the chaos that is taking place in this area. Prenuptial agreements must be structured so that most of the situations that are liable to result in the separation of spouses will end in a pre-arranged mutual agreement. The unresolved cases must receive halakhic relief, even if creative solutions are needed that do not breach the Orthodox halacha but simply require courage. At the doorstep of the Knesset lies a proposal by Professor Brachiah Lifshitz and others, in which the Knesset will have the authority to garnish the money of kiddushin in situations where one of the spouses refuses to uphold a judgment of binding or forcing a get from a religious court. Of course, the conclusions of the Shifman Commission should be properly balanced and adapted to the modern age with regard to the burden of child support and the division of property. Custody of children and false complaints by women (which certainly exist) can no longer be used as tools to improve their position in divorce trials.

Politicial power must be implemented

However, in order to bring about this change, we need political power that will not hesitate to confront the women's organizations, which are unfortunately interested in perpetuating the failures of the rabbinical courts and to a large extent the weakness of women so that we will continue to treat them as the discriminated-against and oppressed minority. We have to stand firm before the Bar Association, which not only does not sanction lawyers who instruct clients to file false complaints and intensify conflicts, but also act according to the familiar story, blowing up the bridge and setting up a “hospital” to treat the victims. And we have to sever the state's connection to marriage and divorce, a move that I am convinced will yield creative solutions within the boundaries of Jewish law.

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