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Fine her, she's a witch!

Rabbinical court penalizes a woman for witchcraft. And no, it’s not Monty Python

The rabbinical court of Haifa ruled against a woman whose husband claimed she practiced witchcraft in their home. The court acquitted the woman of refusing to cook for her husband, as the latter committed adultery, which the court found constituted mitigating circumstances in the woman’s dereliction of culinary duties. (Hebrew)

The woman denied being a witch, but she failed a polygraph test  – which is not accepted as evidence in regular Israeli courts. Presumably the duck test was unavailable. The court, composed of rabbis Yitzhak Shmuel Gamzo, Michael Bleicher, and Meir Kahan, admitted they found no legal precedent for reducing the woman’s ktuba – the money her husband pledges her in case of divorce – presumably since the Halachaic punishment for witchcraft is death. They nevertheless relied on the dubious book of Rabbi Nachman of Breslau, which is not generally considered to be law book (much more of a moral tale) to deprive her of some 90,000 NIS. Impressive.

And no, this isn’t mythical medieval England. This is Israel, 2011. And the court is funded by the government.

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    1. RichardNYC


      Reply to Comment
    2. RichardNYC

      Maybe Israel needs an org like Adalah that instead of litigating against Zionism litigates against this kind of thing. Soros?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Philos

      “Are you sure she’s a witch?”
      “Well, we could drown her and see if she floats back up.”
      What this country is a bloody revolution. Now, I am using bloody in the literal sense or the figurative British English sense? 😉

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mikesailor

      I wonder what ‘evidence’ they considered probative? It can’t be that she fed him a potion containing ‘eye of newt’ or ‘liver of frog’ because she apparently gave up her culinary duties. Perhaps it was the spell by which he suffered a ‘burnig sensation’ when he urinated? Oh, I forgot, he was apparently committing adultery.
      Apparently, the evidence was sufficient, in the eyes of these ‘learned’ rabbis, to deprive her of a chunk of the 90,000 NIS to which she would ordinarily be entitled. Pity that her ‘witchcraft’ couldn’t work on those gentlemen. Monty Python would be proud, although they should sue this ‘court’ for plagiarism.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Piotr Berman

      I think that the learned rabbis are unjustly maligned.

      First, the whole premise of the religious court is that you do not reject out of hand the possibility of the supernatural, so they did not have an easy shortcut to simply dismiss the charge of witchcraft.

      Second, in a civil case the burden of the proof is moved away from “beyond reasonable doubt” to “preponderance of evidence”. Perhaps the woman had a choice of more traditional ordeals: fire, water, and conceded to ordeal by polygraph. I assume that there was some other evidence like testimony (perhaps the milk of neighbors cow dried out or white cheese went moldy with unusual speed? I assume that there had to be something beyond the word of the husband.

      Reply to Comment
    6. directrob

      Now the key question, since when is a polygraph witchcraft kosher?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Borg

      I think that Tzipi Livni is a witch

      Reply to Comment
    8. Karla

      No wonder so many Israelis prefer to be labeled *secular* rather than *Orthodox* !!!

      Reply to Comment
    9. Elli

      I wonder if her “witchcraft” was reading Harry Potter books, or going trick-or-treating.

      Reply to Comment
    10. This is scary. I am floored to think that something like this actually happened. Makes you wonder if Israel is imploding. On Sunday I will inquire about this with my religious friends. Makes me think twice about putting on Teffillin. Almost seems like witchcraft for men now.

      Reply to Comment
    11. CF

      Maybe her husband meant to accuse her of being something that sounds like a witch and the court misheard him? This story gave me a great laugh but then I realized that it’s true… oy vey.

      Reply to Comment
    12. MC Levy

      Dude…nothing in your text makes any sense.
      Don’t know who these people are, but it still sounds nuts. A Polygraph Test in a Beis Din?? Paskening from Rebbe Nachman (and where exactly does Rebbe Nachman talk about anything like this?)? Reducing a Ketubah? I know crazy stuff happens, but this sounds a bit made up. And if it’s not, this lady needs to appeal it to the Beis Din Elyon in J’lem, or complain to the Rabbanut.

      I’m leaning towards it being totally made-up or very, very misunderstood.

      If it’s Bullshit, you should remove it.

      Reply to Comment
    13. AYLA

      a jewish-born Israeli student of mine at BGU identifies as Pagan, and she wrote a great essay in my class called “The Broom Closet”. In it, she wrote about how she was discriminated against in the IDF by army officers for her beliefs.

      Reply to Comment
    14. AYLA

      hey, RichardNYC, we’ve found common ground ;). We both oppose litigation against witches! We don’t need litigation against litigation, though. we need to get the crazy rabbis (and I love a good rabbi) out of the effing courts. Democracy, deschmocracy.

      Reply to Comment
    15. This smacks of a fairly recent report about a dog being sentenced to death by a rabbinical court in Jlm or b/Braq which was also reported in the British press….
      Either way how do we get these bums to do a productive day’s work?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Fred

      Oh, please! This is absolute shtuyot. And just in time for the goyish Purim, no less. But whoever wrote it isn’t bright enough to know that goyim don’t do satire for their dress-up holiday!

      Anyone who would take this seriously must be missing their brains, lol!!!

      Reply to Comment
    17. David

      you do realize that this is a ” rabbinical court “, that’s not the Israeli law but the rabbinical court weird law.

      Reply to Comment
    18. andrew r

      Damn, I bet Ben-Gurion and the avowed secularists who founded Israel are rolling in their graves. We ethnically cleansed Palestine for this???

      Reply to Comment
    19. Rafi

      She wasn’t being tried as a witch, the husband was claiming that because she was practising witchcraft (instead of Judaism) he was justified in divorcing her and therefore he should pay her reduced compensation. Apart from the humor value (and the argument whether changing your religious affiliation should be a ground for divorce) there is nothing particularly amazing here.

      Reply to Comment
    20. ammma

      So basically this woman decided to join a different religion, the husband wanted a divorce and the court granted it. Big deal. Here is the name of the religion btw:
      Wicca (pronounced /ˈwɪkə/), also known as Pagan Witchcraft, is a Pagan religious movement. Its adherents are referred to as Wiccans, though the terms Witches or Crafters are also sometimes used.[1] Developing in England in the first half of the 20th century,[2] Wicca was popularised in the 1950s and early 1960s by a Wiccan High Priest named Gerald Gardner, who at the time called it the “witch cult” and “witchcraft,” and its adherents “the Wica.”[3] From the 1960s onward, the name of the religion was normalised to “Wicca.”[4]

      Reply to Comment
    21. NCLR


      I would like to suggest pedantic verification of the journalistic sources and all ‘facts’ regarding all parties involved. It is too easy to jump to conclusions, I mean, after all, who doesn’t want to have a good laugh על חשבון הרבנות המאוסה? Nevertheless, this could very well be fabricated (or not) but we, reading a link from our emails, have no way of knowing whether this indeed transpired as it is presented here.

      “Mc LEVY” got a good point. I am not halachically versed but what he says makes sense to me, perhaps because it seems to exhibit some prior knowledge mixed with a healthy degree of scepticism. In short, taking this kind of report “cum granum salis” combined with a general approach of מלכתחילה לנסות לדון לכף זכות seems to me the wiser way to go.

      I do hope the woman appeals to a higher court and that she gets the money she (apparently) is entitled to.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Warlock

      As someone who has extensively studied the halachic definitions of witchcraft in all its guises, I am sure I could defend this woman against this charge – unless she really believes herself to be a witch of course, although even then, I don’t seriously believe she is capable of doing anything definined as witchcraft by Jewish Law. Who exactly are the three clowns that comprise this Beth Din (or as we anglos call them sometimes: Deth Bin)?

      Reply to Comment
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