Chana's Story

I left my abusive husband when my son was an infant.  By the time I was granted my Get, he was 17.  Here is my story. 

I moved from Leningrad to Israel when I was 20, along with my parents and twin sister.  I met Roman through friends and we dated for about six months.   Although neither of our families are religious, we were married in a religious ceremony through the Israeli Rabbanut.  When asked whether he was ever married before, Roman lied.  He had been married twice before, once in Russia and once in Holland.  But I was not to discover those marriages for many years.

The problems started right away.  Although respectful and caring while dating, Roman turned ugly after the wedding.  At the Chuppah itself, he told me that “I was now in his pocket.”  He became rigid and possessive.  Everything needed to be perfectly tidy or he would explode into rage.  He was jealous of my family and tied to isolate me.  He got more violent after I got pregnant.  He threw glass, broke things.  By the end of my pregnancy, I was scared for myself and my unborn child.  I left him and went to live with my mom.  But when I needed to give birth, there was no one to take me to the hospital.  Roman had money.  He had a car.  I called him and after Eli was born, I moved back home, hoping for a new start. 

But he only became more paranoid. Once, I left him with Eli for a few hours and when I got back, my baby was alone, and the house was a mess.  Broken glass everywhere, and food all over the walls.   We started therapy but Roman was able to sweet talk his way out of anything.  He convinced the therapist that I was crazy.  I finally left him for good after he hit the baby.  I took nothing but Eli with me when I left.   After a week, when I came back to retrieve some clothing, I found that he had taken a scissors and cut everything in my closet.  The baby clothing were gone. 

I hired a lawyer who filed for divorce in the Rabbinic Court.  Roman told them that he did not want a divorce and that I was mentally unstable.  The court stalled, hoping we would reconcile.  For two years, he made my life hell.  He would follow me everywhere, and my sister and mother.  He hit us, photographed us, yelled at us.  Several times he told the police that I was abusive to him and I was arrested and released.  He had money and hired the most expensive lawyer. He was awarded visitation but was abusive during every visit.  They finally sent a social worker.  When she was there he was very nice and then when she left, he got abusive.  He brought toys when she was there and took them back when she left.  My lawyer finally encouraged me to stop fighting him in court.  “If you were my daughter,” he said, “I would tell you to leave the country.”

I desperately wanted to stay in Israel with my family.  But I had no choice but to flee.  Every door was closed to me.  No one wanted to get involved.  Everyone was afraid of dealing with him.  He had started proceedings to get full custody of Eli, which the lawyer thought he might be able to do.  I knew he would never grant my Get and I knew that the law in Israel would never be on my side.

Leaving was not as easy as I thought.  Roman legally blocked me from leaving the country with Eli.  The lawyer told me that I may be able to escape in the few hours when the restraining order had to be renewed.  I went to the airport not knowing if I would be allowed to leave. The order was not in the system and they let me through.  Although I was headed for the US, I knew I he would try to trace my movements to find me.  I went to Germany and took a train to France and from there to Texas.

I desperately missed my family but I knew I could never again return to Israel, even for a visit.  According to Israeli law, I was an Isha Moredet.  I disobeyed a Rabbinic court and kidnapped my own son. If I entered Israel, I would be arrested and my son would be taken from me.  I also had no passport as it couldn’t be renewed with this legal situation hanging over me.   I knew that Roman would find us eventually and he showed up at my son’s kindergarten, soon after I moved to Boston.   The school knew my situation and they called me to say the father was here.  I called the police but by the time we got there, he had left.  Eli was scared and throwing up.  I got a restraining order that same day.  I never knew when he may come back and I was scared to go out of the house for months. I didn’t’ go to work and didn’t send Eli to school.  The Israeli consulate told me that he had the legal paperwork that would allow him to take Elli and bring him back to Israel.  I lived in fear.  

I got a civil divorce in Boston but only a Get would change my legal status in Israel.  Roman refused and the Bet Din would not budge.   For ten years I couldn’t go back to Israel with Eli.  Finally, I found a Rabbi in Boston to intercede on my behalf.  The Bet Din in Israel agreed to hear the case again but they could not find Roman for another six years.  He was living under an alias and when he was finally found, they forced him to grant my Get.   It had been 17 years.

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