A raucous occurred on Wednesday in the meeting of the Knesset committee that is responsible for infant rights. During the lively meeting, 10 Rabbinical judges from the Rabbinical high court expressed their opposition to the proposed change in the current law that gives custody rights to the mother for all children under the age of six. The proposed change would affect the long-standing precedent that a mother in a divorced or separated couple would have the majority of the custody of children under the age of two except in cases of special consideration.
Director of the Rabbinical Courts in Israel, Rabbi Shimon Yakoby requested that the members of the Rabbinical court intercede during the committee meeting and express their opinion. In a letter penned by the Rabbis they wrote: We, the undersigned, have read the proposed change in the current law and have come across a halachik problem with the proposed change to the law. According to the change children under the age of two (currently the age is six) will be primarily under the custody of the mother. The rabbinical courts have always followed the current law that matches up with a decision handed down from the Shulchan Aruch that specifies that we must do what is best for the child when determining their guardianship. We believe that we must leave this law the way it is currently.”
The Rabbis added that according to their experience over a vast number of years, it is best for most children to stay with their mothers until they are six-years-old, and have matured past the age of preschool.
In an ironic twist, the position of the Rabbinic High Court aligns with the opinions of the many women’s rights organizations who also oppose the planned age change in the classification of infant and preschoolers.
Rabbi Yakoby said: The Rabbinical High Court respects the opinions of all involved organizations, both those promoting women’s rights and those promoting men’s rights. We must look positively on the increase of men who want to take a more active role in their children’s lives and to take responsibility for them together with their mothers. We must however also take into account instances in which it is unclear what exactly is best for the child. With regards to this, these Rabbis are treading upon the road paved for them by our sages of old, whose wisdom still holds true today and whose laws match up with the established law of the State of Israel.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)