Two children have been removed from a mother by a rabbinical court in Israel after she signed them up for "mixed-gender swimming classes. They have been placed in the custody of their father, who has been convicted of violent crimes, according to reports.
The Haifa Rabbinical Court ruled that the mother was not properly complying with observant Jewish practices, and now she is only allowed to see her kids, ages 5 and 8, in a specific facility, Haaretz reports.
The family feud comes three years after the couple filed for divorce, in which the mother agreed to give the children a religious upbringing.
The Haifa Rabbinical Court in Israel. (Google Maps)
However, the father claims his ex-wife signed them up for a swimming class taught by a woman, with boys and girls in the water together, and fed them non-kosher food, breaking the divorce agreement.
The latest ruling comes after a series of lawsuits the couple had filed against each other at the rabbinical court, with custody going from their mom to their dad. A local social worker wrote, "The children talk about their father's violence against them," adding to a list of threats he has been accused of making against his ex-wife, a civil servant, and a secretary in his community. However, the father claims he suffers from mental illness.
While the case is unlikely to make it to the Supreme Court. Adam Ognall, CEO of New Israel Fund UK — which advocates against the rabbinical court system — told The Independent, "The monopoly of ultra-Orthodox state rabbinical courts on matters of divorce in Israel can lead to situations where religious rulings gain precedence over child welfare recommendations and the rights of women to equal status."
In Israel, the rabbinical court, a panel of rabbis, is separate from the secular court system and is legally binding. Appeals can make it the Supreme Court, but that rarely happens.