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'It's unthinkable that my baby is being forced to undergo an irreversible surgical procedure'
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Rabbinical court says it has full authority to bind circumcision with divorce proceedings
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Mother determined not to circumcise son

Woman petitions High Court of Justice against High Rabbinical Court's decision to force her to perform Jewish ritual on infant, at father's request. 'Tomorrow they'll force people not to eat pita bread during Passover as part of divorce case,' she tells Ynet

A woman who is being forced by the High Rabbinical Court to circumcise her one-year-old son, at the request of the child's father, says she is finding it difficult to understand how a divorce dispute has turned into a fundamental battle over freedom of religion and ritual.


And although circumcision is an (almost) incontestable consensus among the Israeli public, she has no intention of giving up. Every day that goes by increases the debt imposed on her by the rabbinical court: A fine of NIS 500 (about $140) for every day of delay in observing the mitzvah.


On Wednesday she petitioned the High Court of Justice through the Justice Ministry's Civilian Legal Aid Department, demanding that the precedent ruling and the fine be canceled.


"Today I'm being forced to circumcise my son as part of divorce proceedings," she says in an interview to Ynet, "and tomorrow the rabbinical court will force one side not to eat pita bread during Passover, because it bothers the other side in the divorce proceedings."


'My husband is more secular than I am'

The woman, who lives in the Sharon region with her two children, says her husband pulled out the "circumcision card" when they were already in the middle of the divorce proceedings. "He is more secular than I am," she says, adding that they had mutually agreed not to circumcise the baby.


"The objection to circumcise my son came after I was exposed to all the information on the issue, and studied and investigated it. I realized that it was healthier not to circumcise, regardless of the divorce proceedings… He didn't object, there was a one-year silence, and then it was raised for the first time in the rabbinical court. I began trembling, I was in total shock."


She adds that the husband raised the circumcision issue during a discussion held in her absence. "I was completely surprised. The decision was made within three hours, without giving me the chance to respond. They just pulled out this claim, and the court jumped on the opportunity and celebrated it."


In its ruling, the High Rabbinical Court judges protested the mother's objection to circumcise the child, stating that they had not encountered such an incident as part of a divorce case for decades. They warned against a precedent that would turn the matter into a tool in similar battles.


The mother, however, sees it as an attempt to justify religious coercion. Attorney Marcella Wolf, who is representing her, refers to the ruling as "a speculation done by the court itself. The claim was raised earlier neither by the husband nor by the wife. They tried to bind the two things together in order to buy legal authority, because there is no such thing."


The judges thought otherwise, noting that "delaying the circumcision may stop this person from marrying according to Jewish Law – and this is undoubtedly an issue subject to the court's authority."


'Why is the court interfering?'

Meanwhile, Attorney Wolf is asking the High Court to issue an interim order which would freeze all sanctions and fines imposed on the mother, as well as the decision forcing her to circumcise her son.


"I understand the public dispute that may be evoked over the circumcision issue," she says, "but the question and petition here is clearly legal: Does the rabbinical court have the authority to discuss this issue? The petition is not taking sides in the public dispute, and from this aspect the rabbinical court has no pretext."


The mother is expecting what she sees as "justice."


"It's unthinkable that the court – as a default and monopoly over marriage and divorce – will take advantage of the opportunity to force me into a religious ritual which contradicts my worldview, something I don't believe in or want. It's unthinkable that it will force my baby to undergo an irreversible surgical procedure. It's just unimaginable."


"You must understand that we are talking about a third party, a child who is not being asked, while the disagreement is between the two parents. Such a situation, when there is no medical matter involved, does not allow anyone to interfere, and certainly not the rabbinical court."


Court: We have full authority

The Rabbinical Courts Administration offered the following statement in response: "The rabbinical courts discuss issues of child custody, education and upbringing under the clear criterion of what is best for the child. Seeing that today, with almost no exception, all Jewish children born in the State of Israel are circumcised during childhood – this child may suffer greatly when he grows up and associates with other children, when he grows older and reaches the age of military service, as well as face difficult problems when he arrives to register for marriage and get married according to Jewish Law.


"Therefore, from the child's perspective, the court must care for his wellbeing and welfare."


The High Rabbinical Court noted that the mother was using the child as leverage for her demand that her husband accept domestic peace.


"We believe that using the child for any goal – including domestic peace – is wrong. Involving the child in a battle between the parents, while ignoring the damage he is suffering now and will suffer in the future, is inappropriate. It should be mentioned that the rabbinical court has the full authority to discuss the issue when the matter of child custody is linked to the divorce claim."



פרסום ראשון: 12.19.13, 14:35
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