The Knesset Immigration, Absorption & Diaspora Affairs Committee met on Monday to discuss the ruling by the Cologne district court banning Brit Milah, Jewish ritual circumcision. Committee Chair Danny Danon, MK (Likud), called on the German Ambassador, H.E. Andreas Michaelis, to make it clear to the German Bundestag that Israel is very concerned about the implications of this ruling, and that the parliament must do more than just make statements and should initiate speedy legislation ensuring the right to carry out circumcisions.
“We have been observing this Mitzvah [religious command] ever since the time of the Patriarch Abraham; this court ruling has implications for all of European Jewry. The court ruling is absolute, and so only a law passed by the Bundestag can ensure freedom on this issue. Jewish communities around the world are awaiting the response by the Bundestag, for this ruling is having a chilling effect on Jewish parents throughout Germany who have to decide whether to have a brit milah performed on their baby sons,” said Danon.
Ambassador Michaelis responded by saying that “This is an extremely important issue, which has aroused controversy in Germany too.”
“Over the past twenty years,” continued the Ambassador, “the Jewish communities in Germany have grown by a third and we are committed to a continuation of this growth.”
According to Michaelis, although the Federal court cannot intervene in the Cologne court ruling, it is not binding on other courts. He added that the German Foreign Minister has stated clearly that freedom of religion is guaranteed by law and that since brit milah is an integral part of Jewish tradition, no court ruling can be allowed to undermine this.
There are already three parties in the Bundestag that have prepared legislation to make the right to circumcision legally binding, Michaelis explains, and their initiative will be continued if we find that this ruling continues to arouse problems.
In response to the Ambassador, the Director General of the Chief Rabbinate, Oded Wiener, said that the ruling by the Cologne court is binding on all courts in the Cologne district, and while the ruling is not binding on other courts, they may choose to follow it. Already now in Berlin, at least one mohel [ritual circumciser] is avoiding performing brit milah, so that parents find themselves forced to look abroad to have the procedure done.
A poll carried out in Germany shows that 50% of German residents support the ruling, out of fear of the rising power of Muslims in the country, says Wiener.
Dr. Inon Schenker, a global health consultant and Senior HIV Prevention Specialist, noted that circumcision is not only a religious right; it is also a life-saving medical obligation that may halt the AIDS epidemic. “Thanks to our cooperation with Operation Abraham Collaborative (OAC),” he explains, “over the past year and a half some ten thousand African men have undergone circumcision in order to help stop the spread of AIDS.”
Jamal Hammud, a senior operating-room nurse at the Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem and a Muslim circumciser, added that 16 medical delegations have already gone to South Africa from Israel to give training on medical circumcisions with the goal of reducing the high mortality rate from AIDS. He noted that circumcision also contributes to a 60% reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer in the partners of circumcised men, as well as other illnesses.
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