Leaflets calling for an end to the use of live chickens as part of the Kapparot ritual have been hung outside synagogues in Kfar Saba, Kadima-Tzoran and other Sharon region communities in recent weeks.
Kapparot is Jewish folk custom during the days before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to transfer one's sins to a chicken or to money given to charity.
The struggle has been run for years by the Anonymous association for animal rights. This year, the activists are receiving surprising support this year from an ultra-Orthodox organization called Hemla, which has published its reservations against the way the custom is performed.
"It's unthinkable that God-fearing Jews would cooperate with all kinds of people bringing the chickens while starving and abusing them," notes one of the haredi organization members. "These animals are packed together for hours, without water or any basic conditions."
Hemla members stress that they have nothing against the actual custom. "We want to raise awareness to the horrible way that people hold the chickens. It's inhumane – they sit in the sun, crowded, without food or water. Judaism says a person must not eat before feeding his animals," explains Yehuda Schein, one of the organization activists.
"I personally perform Kapparot for money. Naturally, if the alternative is doing it for money, then I prefer doing it this way," he adds.
According to the Anonymous organization, "The Kapparot ritual means causing great suffering to tens of thousands of roosters and hens. The Kapparot ceremony includes swinging the chicken around one's head before slaughtering it. But the suffering doesn’t end there.
"First of all, the suffering has to do with their breeding conditions: Most chickens come from industrial henhouses, where most of their needs are denied and different systems in their bodies are damaged as a result of the density and excrements they are forced to roll in.
"At the end of the process, most of the chickens are held for hours in crowded cages, waiting without water or food to be taken out of the cages and later slaughtered."
Activists of Anonymous have been distributing thousands of leaflets in synagogues across the country under the banner, "Saving lives rather than a soul for a soul" and "Judaism – a religion of compassion, not cruelty."
"I know that there is a lot of support for our struggle and awareness to everything related to animal abuse," says Anonymous activist Tal Gilboa-Yuz of Kfar Saba. "We are trying to reach as many people as possible in every way, and in the middle of the road we met Hemla, which is an amazing and blessed organization."
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