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Woman fined $140 a day for refusing to circumcise son

Rabbinical judges in the case said they fear the effect that allowing Israeli Jews to freely decide on the ritual circumcision of their own children might have on the global debate over the issue. 

A Jewish child is circumcised in a traditional Brit Mila ceremony (Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com)

An Israeli woman is being fined NIS 500 ($140) every day for refusing to circumcise her one-year-old-son, Israel’s Channel 2 reported today. There is no sweeping legal requirement for Jews in Israel to circumcise their children, but the woman is undergoing a divorce process at the Haifa Rabbinical Court, and her husband has appealed to the court to pressure the woman into circumcising the son.

“I’ve been exposed to a lot of information about circumcision and decided not to proceed with the circumcision,” the woman told Channel 2. “I have no right to cut at his genitals and to maim him, and the court has no authority to force me to.” Her lawyer also said the rabbinical court does not have the authority to enforce the procedure, but the secular family court would. The woman went on to add she was unemployed, and cannot afford to pay the fine, which already adds up to NIS 2,500 ($700). She said her husband originally had no objections to avoiding circumcision when the child was born, but changed his mind during the divorce process.

The rabbinical judges in the case said in their decision the woman was opposing the circumcision as a means to bringing her husband back to her. They also referred explicitly to the growing debate around ritual male circumcision elsewhere in the world, and voiced their fear of the precedent that could be created by a Jewish Israeli woman allowed not to circumcise her son.

“We have witnessed for some time now public and legal struggles against the brit milah in many countries in Europe and in the United States,” the judges wrote. “The public in Israel has stood as one man [sic] against these trends, seeing them as yet another aspect of displays of anti-Semitism that must be combatted. How will the world react if even here the issue of circumcision is given to the discretion of any person, according to their own beliefs?”

Religious courts in Israel hold complete sway over all matrimonial issues, including divorce. An appeal to the Haifa District Court by the woman was turned down, and the woman said the only resort left now is an appeal to the Supreme Court.

More on the circumcision debate:
Stand up for your son: Say ‘no’ to ritual circumcision
My (inadequate) justification for circumcision
Outlawing circumcision: Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Danny

      “An appeal to the Haifa District Court by the woman was turned down, and the woman said the only resort left now is an appeal to the Supreme Court.”

      An appeal to the U.N. human rights council might be in order as well. Barring that, the woman can simply refuse to circumcise her son and face a prison term; I’d like to see Israel try to whitewash that!

      Reply to Comment
      • un2here

        The US would veto anything brought against Israel in the Human Rights Council

        Reply to Comment
        • Danny

          I actually think the U.S. might not veto this one, if only because 99% of American Jews would strongly support the woman, not Israel.

          Reply to Comment
        • Richard Burrill

          Yes, apparently the U. S. thinks Israel is a state. After all Israel is about the same size as New Jersey.

          Also, as a non-Jew who was circumcised when I had no opinion about the matter, I believe it should be optional.

          Reply to Comment
          • JS

            But Israel is a state. What’s your point?

            Reply to Comment
    2. Jeff

      The look on that infant’s face tells you all you need to know about genital mutilation.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Average American

      So the clergy in Israel dictates civil law.

      Is that the “Jewish” part or the “Democratic” part of The Jewish And Democratic State of Israel?

      Further, the clergy in Israel thinks it should dictate civil law on this subject to the world. And they are certain that if you don’t circumcise your boy then you are an anti-Semite.

      Is that the “religious fanatic” part or the “megalomaniac” part of The Jewish And Democratic State Of Israel?

      Come on! These are the people we want to ally with in the Middle East? These are supposed to be our steady hands of rationalism in the Middle East?

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        Maybe wait a bit with the criticism? Maybe until after American schools will stop teaching “Creationism” or abortion clinics will not get bombed or “jews killed jesus” signs will not appear in front of churches?

        This decision, as the whole Rabanut and Rabbinic court is heavenly criticized in Israel and I don’t think this decision will hold in a regular court of law.

        Just a bizarre decision, you can infer as much about Israel from this as I can about the US from this http://archive.adl.org/images/holyscriptures.jpg

        Reply to Comment
        • Average American

          Vadim that is genuinely interesting. To hear average Israelis don’t agree with the rabbinic court. It is interesting and encouraging. We don’t hear that side of the news in the US.

          Reply to Comment
          • Vadim

            It’s not really interesting, nor is it encouraging. I mean it is, if your perception of Israel stems from what you hear on Nazi rallies. Then it can be quite shocking to face reality.

            You say you don’t hear that side in the media. What side do you hear? Given that –
            1. You said you don’t hear anything about Israel in your media
            2. There is no other side

            Reply to Comment
          • Average American

            Vadim I was just trying to recognize there might be some common ground, some dissent in both our countries.

            What we hear in the news here is 100% pro-Israel. It’s everywhere. We’re supposed to support Israel in anything it does. We’re not really told why.

            Well we’re seeing some of the things Israel does aren’t lining up with what we think we should support.

            Alot of us think we have some more important things to take care of right here at home.

            Alot of us think Israel has gotten a little big for its britches. Do you know that expression?

            Reply to Comment
    4. Shteln

      Quite, Average American. Well put.

      Reply to Comment
    5. sponor

      Look at: “How will the world react if even here the issue of circumcision is given to the discretion of any person, according to their own beliefs?”
      Gross! Acting “according to their own beliefs” — that is unbelievable, isn’t it? If they do not take care, they even might end up in an enlightened world where people can do what they want and do not follow orders from medieval-minded loons…

      I cannot eat as much as I would like to vomit….

      Reply to Comment
      • Nobody

        Medieval? I guess you meant Stone-Age.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Melle

      I nearly quit nursing school after observing a circumcision for the first time…I never knew babies could scream so terribly from pain. I think the practice is barbaric, and the physical trauma it may end up causing psychological damage.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        Both my sons were circumcised. Neither as much as cried. They were given anesthetics “just in case” and I have seen cases where even that was not necessary. If performed correctly, the baby should not experience pain at all.

        So, you either –
        1. Invented the whole story
        2. Observed someone do this wrong. Since this is a very simple operation, I would reconsider attending your nursing school.

        Reply to Comment
        • Sadie

          Your babies didn’t cry because they had gone into shock…medical fact. It’s an even more traumatic reaction than that blood-curdling scream some of them do. There’s no way to tell if anesthetic does a thing because infants can’t tell you. Now that the pain and trauma is over, you have kids who have been robbed of an important and functional tissue meant to protect the glans of the penis as well as several thousand nerve endings they’ll never get back. You don’t need to go to nursing school to learn common sense. RIC is a medical crime.

          Reply to Comment
        • Pete

          No child should have to go through this God created us just the way we are. Are y9ou trying to say that God’s mould for us was not right?! Come on man. No child should have to experience that

          Reply to Comment
        • Jhon Murdock

          Yeah Vadi, we all believe you but why don’t you just go ahead and post your videos anyway. Then we’ll believe you even more. Here, as a show of good faith, I post my own: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXVFFI76ff0&feature=youtu.be
          RSVP

          Reply to Comment
        • It is an unecessary procedure based on religious superstitions for the most part. The child has no choice in the matter. The cultural backdrop when it comes to circumcision – be it of male or female in those societies that practice it – reflects a controling ethos that seeks to “mark” the circumcised as acceptable. It is a disfigurement that isn’t medically necessary and is about adhering to practices that are less about science and more about myth. At an older age if a person chooses to be circumcised for medical or other reasons that’s something else, but placing infants under the knife and worse punishing a mother for not going along is both coercive and profoundly unjust.

          Reply to Comment
    7. Bruce Denney

      Genital mutilation is not a “Jewish” thing. I suspect that only a small fraction of the genitally mutilated people in the world are Jewish.

      Clearly there is a movement against genital mutilation. It is not a requirement of the Jewish faith, so it would make sense for the Jewish community to get with the program and not try and hold back the tide of public opinion.

      Reply to Comment
    8. I’m with Melle here – religious circumsision is barbaric and a relic from a dark age and should not have a place in a modern world. It’s against human rights to mutilate anyone, so why babies? Just because some fools think it’s okay to do so because it has been done for ages? That’s ridiculous.

      Stop mutilating babies’ genitals!

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        Please don’t make this more than it is. It’s a removal of a small piece of skin. Yes, it’s an old tradition. But the big words (barbaric, mutilation) for occasions where it’s more appropriate.

        Reply to Comment
        • DST7

          A “useless piece of skin” -that contains up to 20,000 fine touch nerve endings (like those on lips, nipples and fingertips), that can be up to 15 square inches in an adult male, that is essential erogenous, protective and immunological tissue– that is what is irreversibly removed. And that is OK?

          Reply to Comment
        • DST7

          Would you remove the foreskin of a baby girl? Yes, girls have the same tissue and it serves the same purposes as that of the male. It is very essential tissue. If your answer is “no” musn’t you rethink your position on infant male circumcision?
          Do you think it wouldn’t cause pain? What about the surge in cortisol due to the stress? An unethical study going on right now in Cincinatti is comparing the Mogen and Gompco clamp re which one causes more pain, as measured by stress hormones. The pain and the stress acknowledged! Re remembering- the body remembers what the conscious mind does not.

          Reply to Comment
    9. Bjorn

      Barbaric idiots!

      Reply to Comment
    10. Mark

      If any parent reading this still thinks they have the right to do this, consider this: every man who overcomes his inner conflict/denial over what “loved ones” did to him and faces this monster head on, will resent his parents. Not only that, he may even hate them for it. I speak from experience and right now I am a raging inside for my violation. It takes any other slightest betrayal to trigger breaking contact.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        I really think you have other issues with your parents.

        No one should hate his parents for cutting a piece of useless skin.

        Reply to Comment
        • Mark

          Yes, I most certainly have other issues, you are right. But my point was that those issues trigger the mutilation anger. If a parents takes responsibility for their actions and ask for forgiveness, most sons would acknowledge that. Everyone wants a family.

          However, when parents dont do that, or even come out with a pathetic, half-hearted little “oh, well, sorry” and betray in other ways, well, then the relationship is doomed. Regardless though to what degree one has contact, the resentment will always be there, even if one still has a relationship. We humans need validation for our suffering and if we dont get that we find more meaningful relationships elsewhere. Not an easy road, but abuse has many forms and I wont take it anymore.

          Reply to Comment
          • Mark

            “No one should hate his parents for cutting a piece of useless skin.”

            And as for your last statement, you clearly haven’t a clue of the male anatomy.

            Reply to Comment
    11. Tim

      Child abuse in progress! goodbye religion!

      Reply to Comment
      • Mark

        Absolutely!! Every religious parent claims special god-given rights over the child’s mind (religious upbringing) and body.

        If you can violate the mind with scare stories, why not the body too.

        Reply to Comment
    12. Good for her in knowing enough to protect her child and for not being coerced into circumcising her child.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Yeoman Roman

      Vadim,

      Your ignorance is typical of modern day Jews, -with the exception of the mother mentioned in the article.

      I once was as ignorant as you, until my brother the Jewish doctor gave me poor, inaccurate advice about foreskins. Then I used this little thing called “Google” to start my research. You might try this sometime.

      IF you do, you’ll come across a essay by Rabbi Issac Ben Yedaiah about circumcision, at a time when Jews knew a LOT more about the sexual functions of the foreskin. The lack of a foreskin really cripples sexual pleasure. Which would seem to be the real function of circumcision. Even in Judaism.

      http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/org/Medieval/src/contributed/diva@cutlass.aug5.com/penis.html

      Google and become truly educated Vadim. Your mythology and your prejudice have misled you.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        1. “Your ignorance is typical of modern day Jews”. Saying there is something “typical of modern day Jews” is called Racism.

        2. The scriptures do not provide a reasoning besides making a mark that we continue the covenant with God. In this case, as in any similar, many have tried to provide reasons. Some say it’s meant to limit sexual prowess and pleasure, some say it’s an extra and the body is better without it, some say it’s good for your health and I’ve heard someone say that the mere danger (irrelevant in our days) is the cause. These are all commonly known speculations and I don’t need Google to this. I mark my sons because this is the Jewish way, not because of any potential health benefits (real or not) or to limit their sexual prowess. Same as my ancestors have done. Where does any mythology come in? How am I prejudiced?

        3. You are the one that needs Google to find something that should be known to every Jewish person with a bit of interest in his heritage. You are the prejudiced once because you make unbased claims about me and Jews in general.

        Reply to Comment
    14. Babies and their flesh and their future sexual fulfillment and martial stability belong to the state, not the parents. Get with the program!

      Reply to Comment
    15. John Taylor

      Genital mutilation is child abuse, even if it is for religious reasons.

      This court is enforcing an unnecessary and harmful mutilation on a child.

      The mother deserves to keep the child and shows this by refusing to permit her child to be disfigured for an outdated religious rite.

      Reply to Comment
    16. It is very sad when a decision over circumcision is defined as evidence of anti-Semitism, as the Rabbinical Court wrote, quoted in the piece.

      Since individuals may abandon their faith, how can religious courts of any faith be given custodial power over children? A fine of this magnitude, daily, is, indirectly, such power. One could say the same about divorce itself; however, in that case the married couple assent to their religion for marriage within it. But the child has no real say in his religion, certainly not an infant. Decision should devolve to the parents supported by civil law, with religious divorce decree distinct from civil custody–and that is the fear. Religious control of divorce could still play a role (whether I like it or not is immaterial); for sometimes spouses will be unwilling to renounce their faith to avoid the religious courts.

      As it stands upon this reading, the Court’s decision makes Judaism a corporate entity, with individuals cells to be directed toward the corporate good.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Vadim

      Sadie – “gone into shock…medical fact. ” That’s crap. I’m saying you are inaccurate, I say this is BS. My sons were circumcised by an experienced surgeon, that happens to be a Mohel as well. To make sure the anesthetics work the skin is pinched. I didn’t see any reaction. I spoke with people that had their children circumcised without anesthetics – they cried, but nothing a pacifier with wine or food didn’t take care of. If kindly advice you don’t use the services of Mohels\Surgeons\Hospitals that cause whose patients “blood-curdling scream”.

      DST7 – female circumcision or the procedure you describe are not part of the Jewish tradition and I don’t see any reason to perform them.

      J_40 – “The child has no choice in the matter”. That’s the whole point, it’s about the parent marking his child.

      To all of you – I understand it’s a tradition, I understand that the health benefits are probably non existent. Being Jewish is an important part of my identity and circumcision is an important part in the Jewish life. Nothing more and nothing less.

      Reply to Comment
      • Vadim

        Wrote in a hurry, many typos.

        “I’m NOT saying you are inaccurate”
        “I kindly advice”
        “Hospitals in which patients scream”

        Reply to Comment
      • “Being Jewish is an important part of my identity and circumcision is an important part in the Jewish life. Nothing more and nothing less.” : I understand this. The issue is whether a religious court should be able to enforce this against the objection of a parent with physical custody of the child. Certainly courts can enforce care on the child; but should they be able to enforce a religious emblem on the child?

        On health befits, about 15 years ago where I live a doctor mildly suggested circumcision to a gentile (a friend) saying it may decrease chances of bacterial infection in the area. But in the modern world the question really reduces to cultural identity. Which is fine. Again, the real focus of this piece is whether that identity can be enforced over the objections of a custodial parent.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          “The issue is whether a religious court should be able to enforce this against the objection of a parent with physical custody of the child”. Of course not. Moreover, I don’t think they have the authority to do this.

          One of the reasons I find this site a bit problematical is that it often presents Israel’s internal affairs with no context. The context is quite clear to any Israeli but many people from other places seem to also care and they completely lack context.

          The Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Rabbinic courts are equally hated by secular and religious Israeli Jews (except for perhaps the Ultra-orthodox which they represent). They are corrupt and basically do what ever it is they please. When I got married and had to go through the both of these disgusting institutions, a religious coworker asked me to take the process lightly and make an effort to separate Judaism from the silly bureaucracy I’m about to face. They use any means to extend their limited power and make an attempt (such as this one) every once in a while.

          This case is not the rule, it’s just an exception which I hope would soon be fixed by a sane court of law.

          What I just said is clear to every Israeli, it’s less clear to foreigners.

          There are various “researches” regarding the benefits of circumcision. Given that’s a very simple surgical operation and is very profitable – I don’t take those researches too seriously.

          Reply to Comment
          • The piece says that, having been dismissed in district court, the only avenue left for the parent is the High Court–if she persists (it can be hard to keep a case going, personally, sometimes). So perhaps the law will intervene as you hope. The principle seems clearly defined. If most Israelis dislike the rabbinical courts, it may be easier for the High Court to act.

            I just related a story about “benefits” I know up front. My friend was clean enough to outweigh any presumed bacterial threat. The only reason seems to be cultural/religious. He had it done to his son, I think because he was circumcised too, although not Jewish, and I think he didn’t want his boy to eventually see the difference between them. Men my age were often circumcised over here for presumed infection benefit. I was. I seemed to have tried to put in an opinion, for my mom said I cried horribly (no anesthetic back then).

            The real issue here is power against parental choice with no clear medical need.

            Reply to Comment
    18. The major question in this story is not about circumcision in and of itself, but the fact that an ex-husband is using the rabbinical court to twist his wife’s arm. They are imposing a punitive financial levy on her to force her to comply with a religious practice that she doesn’t want for her son. That should be concerning even if you do believe in ritual circumcision, unless you’re OK with a court strong-arming parents over their other parenting choices. The irony here is that circumcision’s defenders in other countries talk about the need to protect parents’ freedom of choice (I sometimes hear circumcision being compared to the decision to raise a child vegetarian), but all of a sudden parental freedom doesn’t matter now.

      Reply to Comment
    19. RicardoD

      Has this mother converted? If not, the boy is not even a Jew. How can these rabbis force circumcision on the boy if he is not a Jew? If he is a Jew, he has individual, personal, human rights to be free from a body mutilation imposed by others. Send these rabbis to The Hague to be tried for their crimes against humanity.

      Reply to Comment
    20. In many nations a parent can be fined for inflicting genital cutting on their daughters and NOT respecting the girl’s basic human rights to bodily integrity and eventual self-determination, but in Israel a religious court fines a mother for respecting those very same rights for her son? If so, the court is setting a very dangerous precedent by saying that Jewish males are exempt from respect for these most fundamental of human rights.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        You forgot about Arab countries where all Muslim males are circumcised at the age of 13.

        A Muslim mother in a Muslim country would be at least be fined – or more likely arrested and lashed, for not allowing to circumcise her 13-years old child.

        Reply to Comment
        • Tresdouche

          Small minded racists like you don’t even get the differnce between a 13 year old and a toddler.
          And no, the 13 should also not been circumcised. He can do that with 18, when he’s old enough to decide.

          Reply to Comment
    21. Marim

      If she don’t want to she don’t have to its her son too it’s funny how back home men are before divorce their son of a bitches and during their divorce they act like they are good concern about how their kids live and well being to show that they are better then the wife and mom men are pigs all over the world no matter where u live

      Reply to Comment
    22. Cameron

      we chose to go against tradition and think for ourselves. When my beautiful son was born I felt an overwhelming strength to protect him from all harm. Why cut off bits of him? He was born with what he has and it’s perfectly natural. Nature does not make mistakes. That skin is to protect the opening to the penis. Think about what you are doing. I would not choose to have it done to myself given the choice so why would i let anyone cut anything off of my son.

      Reply to Comment
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