Last week an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and several of his associates were acquitted of kidnapping or conspiring to kidnap Jewish men,while two other rabbis were convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted kidnapping . Why? To force them to allow their wives a divorce. Or more specifically a "get."
The Get is based on Deuteronomy 24 and basically refers to a deceleration that severs all legal and moral obligations between the man and woman. Typically prepared by a scribe acting on the man's behalf, the get is prepared for each couple specifically, although general terminology and style are followed.
It must have been written on the explicit instruction and free-willed approval of the husband, with the specific intention that it is to be used by the man and for the specific woman. It cannot be initially written with blanks to be filled in later.
It must be delivered to the wife, whose physical acceptance of the get is required to complete and validate the divorce process.
There are certain detailed requirements relating to the legal and religious nature of the get itself. For example:
It must be written on a fresh document, and there must be no possibility of cleanly erasing the text.
It may not be written on anything attached to the ground (for instance, a fig leaf).
The get may not be pre-dated.
Notice, however, that the get can only be initiated by the man. Without a get the woman cannot remarry within her faith without being considered an adulteress. However, the wife does have a right to bring her case before a rabbinical court if the husband does not consent to grant a get. Traditionally, the court grants the woman divorce only in rare cases, but it is still up to the husband to issue a get. Men who refuse the court's order can be fined or even punished with confinement, being forced to spend the night on a grave (with the obvious implications), or physical abuse. Such courts in the state of Israel have the authority to sentence a man to prison for failure to conform to their wishes, but obviously not anywhere else.
Thus we have the case of Rabbi Mendel Epstein. The article is not clear if these men acted to enforce a court order, but it is clear from the results that the jury was unsure of the legality of his actions.
I wonder, were their actions extreme, that is to say without precedent? Did the men of these communities know what could happen if they defied a rabbinical court order? Of course any man that tries to make a woman stay with him when she doesn't want to is crazy.