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Group Angered by Forced Divorce

February 25, 1998

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A rabbinical court has ruled an ultra-Orthodox man must divorce his wife, a rape victim, even though the couple wants to stay together _ prompting condemnation Wednesday from Israel’s largest women’s group.

``Instead of supporting the rape victim who underwent deep trauma, the rabbis are adding insult to injury,″ the Naamat women’s group head, Ofra Friedman, said of the rabbis’ decision.

The Yediot Ahronot newspaper said Wednesday that the woman, a mother of nine who lives in the religious Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, was raped three weeks ago by three men as she left a Jewish ritual bath. The woman did not report the attack to police.

However, she did tell her husband, whose last name is Cohen, meaning he is a descendant of the Jewish Temple priests. Under Jewish law, a Cohen _ unlike other Jews _ must divorce his wife if she has been raped. The only way to get around the rule is for the husband to tell his wife he doesn’t believe her.

However, in the Bnei Brak case, the husband failed to intone the necessary words: ``I don’t believe you.″ Instead, he asked several well-known rabbis for advice, Yediot said.

After several days, the rabbis returned with the answer: The couple must divorce despite their desire to stay together.

The couple is still looking for a rabbi who will find a loophole and allow them to stay married, the newspaper said. Their names have not been released.

``Naamat finds it hard to believe that in this day and age the question of whether or not it was rape depends on what the husband says,″ Friedman said in her statement.

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