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In Israel, some rebel against circumcision
Maayan Lubell, Reuters, Nov 28 2012

Circumcision is one of Judaism’s most important laws and for generations of faithful it has symbolized a biblical covenant with God. But in Israel, more and more Jewish parents are saying no to the blade. Gali, nursing her six-week-old son, asked to be identified by her first name only because she had not told her relatives yet. She said:

It’s such a taboo in Israel and in Judaism. It’s like coming out of the closet. I had a conversation with a friend whose son was uncircumcised. She asked me what my reason was for doing it, was it religious? I said no. Was it for health reasons? No. Social? No. Then it began to sink in. I began to read more about it, enter Internet forums, I began to realize that I cannot do it. The main issue which still troubles me a little is the social one, that one day he may come to me and say: “Mom, why did you do that to me? They made fun of me today.”

In Israel, the dilemma may be particularly difficult. Nearly all baby boys in Israel are circumcised. Be their parents ultra-Orthodox or totally secular Jews, it is by far the most common choice. But an increasing minority feel it is a form of physical abuse. Rakefet Kaufman, who also did not have her son circumcised, said:

It’s the same as if someone would tell me, “It’s our culture to cut off a finger when he is born.” People should see it as abuse because it is done to a baby without asking him. The way he was born is the way his body should be. People are shocked to learn that my son is not circumcised. In Israel everybody does it, like a herd. They don’t stop and ask themselves about this specific procedure, which has to do with damaging a baby.

Ronit Tamir, who founded a support group for families who have chosen not to circumcise their sons, said:

The phenomenon is growing, I have no doubt. When we started the group 12 years ago, we had to work hard to find 40 families. They were keeping it secret and we had to promise them we’d keep it secret too. Then, we’d get one or two phone calls a month. Nowadays I get dozens of emails and phone calls a month, hundreds a year. Jews in today’s Israel find it easier to break religious taboos. People are asking themselves what it means to be Jewish these days, and that leads some to question rules of all kinds, including circumcision.

In societies around the world who circumcise boys for non-religious reasons, out of habit or tradition or because of the perceived health benefits, the practice can be controversial. Rates of circumcision in Europe are well under 20%, while in the US, more than half of newborn boys continue to be circumcised. Some Jewish groups in the US which oppose circumcision offer alternative ceremonies that do not include an actual circumcision. Florida-based Rebecca Wald started a website in 2010 to connect parents who are unsure about what to do. She said:

There is definitely a growing number of Jewish families in the US who are choosing not to circumcise. In phone calls, emails, and on social networking sites I have connected with hundreds of Jewish people in the US who question circumcision. Many of them have intact sons or plan to leave future sons intact. My own son is intact. I have a very strong sense of Jewish identity, and believe it or not, having an intact son has only deepened it.

6 Comments

  1. walter benjamin
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    I have written to the Minister of the Interior concerning this. I have opted they have ‘smegmatics’ added to the nationality box.

  2. walter benjamin
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    BTW some years ago the took off the ‘nationality’ box from the IDs.

  3. Sarte
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I would like to know their ethnic background. I am guessing, they are from Russia, and eastern Europe.

  4. walter benjamin
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I don’t think ‘ethnicity’ would be the proper term. I do not think Jews are a race nor a religion. One could call it a ‘peoplehood’ i.e. those who more or less adhere to a certain consensus. What this consensus is would be difficult to define but obviously it exists as an entity otherwise there would not be an ongoing history of opposition or prejudice or whatever you wish to call it.

    As far as Russia etc, most of the population in Israel is from Arab countries making them, obviously, not Ashkenazism.

  5. niqnaq
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Most leftists are Ashkenazim, often via western Europe or the USA. But the post-USSR Russian aliya, a high proportion of whom aren’t halachically Jewish at all, are generally atheists without being leftists, which may be what Sarte is thinking of.

  6. walter benjamin
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I would agree. A demographic scam.
    But even with the 1990 immigration of Russians which is estimated at between 30-40% non Jewish the Sephardim are still the majority in the country.

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