What A Surprise! I Found A “Divorce On Condition” that My Uncle Signed

Rose Avigael Feldman

My Uncle Yehezkel Lulkin was the second oldest of five children and immigrated to Palestine about 1920-1921.  Though I have yet to find him in any immigration lists, his daughter told me he tried to enter more than once until he got in. The first document of his presence in Eretz Israel is a list of residents of Tel Aviv dated 1922. It states that he has been in the country 8 months.

Uncle Yehezkel married Bruria Liebman on May 22, 1924 in Rosh Pinna, though the certificate we have is a copy issued to them by the Rabbanut in Haifa in 1934, when at that time they were living in Nesher, north of Haifa. I can only speculate as to why there is a ten-year gap between their date of marriage and the issue of the certificate. Either they lost their original copy or they had never gotten a copy and now they needed the certificate for various administrative reasons. In accord with the instructions from the British Mandate government, marriage ceremonies of the Jewish population were conducted by a local rabbi and the rabbi was allowed 30 days to inform the Rabbanut of the marriage. Only at that time was a certificate issued by the Rabbanut. This is a completely different document from the ketubah which is signed before the wedding ceremony.

Marriage certificate of Yehezkel Lulkin and Bruria Liebman May 22, 1924 Rosh Pina

According to the ledger of members of the Histadrut (Labor Council) who served in the British Army during World War II, Yehezkel enlisted on June 15, 1942 at the age of 44. He was married and had two children. This ledger is part of the IGRA database collection.

Ledger of Histadrut (Labor Council) members that served in the British Army in WWII, IGRA collection

While looking for new projects for the Israel Genealogy Research Association’s collection among the releases of scanned material on the website of the Israel State Archives, I found files containing “divorces on condition”.  The idea of this document is to appoint an emissary to grant a divorce in case the husband “went missing” for an extended period of time. In this instance it was filled out by Jewish soldiers from Palestine in the British army and kept by the Chief Rabbinate in case the soldier did not return from the war, but was not declared dead. This would allow the wife to remarry. The soldier could decide how long he would have to be missing in action before the wife could remarry. This is an accepted practice in the Jewish religion.

Left to right: Bruria, Amichai, Yehezkel & Devorah Lulkin about 1943
Page from ledger of those who signed divorces on condition, Israel State Archives

As of the date of my writing this article I have only found my uncle listed in the ledger of these “divorces on condition” and the date of the document is listed as כ”ח חשון תש”ד 26 November, 1943 about 17 months after my uncle enlisted. Since my uncle passed away many years ago, I can only deduce that at first, due to his age he served in the country guarding various army installations and only later was he sent to Italy with his unit and that at that time he signed the document.

According to the above ledger Yehezkel was released from the army on 4 December 1945.

On May 20, 1946 an article was published in the newspaper Hazofeh mentioning two immigrants upon arriving in Haifa being met by my Uncle Yehezkel who had already returned and been released from the army and their calling him Abba. According to the article Yehezkel while in Italy had worked with groups of immigrants planning on making Aliyah and they had given him the nickname Abba meaning father.

Article from Hazofeh May 20, 1946 from the Historical Jewish Press website, National Library of Israel

My uncle and aunt raised their family and lived to see their grandchildren grow up. My aunt died in 1972 and my uncle in 1983, and there was never any talk of divorce. The two immigrant children in the above article settled in a kibbutz and remained in touch with my uncle, who also facilitated their marriage.

Rose Feldman

Rose Feldman is in charge of developing new databases for Israel Genealogy Research Association [IGRA]. She has lectured at 15 IAJGS conferences starting in 2003, at various annual seminars, webinars, workshops and meetings of groups in Israel and abroad. In 2017 she was the recipient of IAJGS Award for Volunteer of the Year. In 2014 Rose received the IAJGS Program Award together with Bille Stein and Mathilde Tagger z”l as one of the three coordinators of the Montefiore Censuses Digitization Project.