Jewish World - March 11, 2010

Thousands of Parents Sail Against the Tide of Circumcision

Note: This is a rough electronic translation provided by others.

A marginal but growing number of Jewish Israelis choose not to circumcise their children, settled a breach of a millenary tradition which places them outside the social consensus and confronts them with their families.

In the country there are no official data on the extent of "Brit Milah," the Hebrew name that receives the Jewish circumcision, carried out by hundreds of ultra-Orthodox rabbis called mohelim on the eighth day after birth.

According to one survey, 97 percent of Israeli Jews has taken or would take away the foreskin to his descendants, in 78 percent of the cases as a basic Jewish tradition, at 13 percent for health reasons and a 9 because "everyone does it" or to prevent the child being ashamed of being "different" to others.

For the religious it is a "mitzvah," one of the 613 commandments of Judaism and a symbol of God’s covenant with his chosen people through the patriarch Abraham, as told in Genesis: "every male circumcised the flesh of your foreskin and that is the sign of my covenant between me and you."

But the vast majority of secular Jews in Israel are engaged in a practice that has its roots in ancient Egypt and share with Muslims.

Explains Andrew Sacks, Rabbi mohel since 1983 and leader of Conservative Judaism in the country: "It is a precept internalized for generations, even among more secular, has remained the most basic sign of identification as a Jew."

However, in Israel the "rebels" have happened in two decades of virtual absence to be counted in tens of thousands, said Ronit Tamir, a founder of Kahal, a support group for parents who choose not to circumcise their children.

Still, the proof that the subject remains taboo is that all respondents preferred not cited at least the names of their children.

"The Internet has helped a lot, but it remains a difficult decision," said Tamir, whose husband had to undergo two years of silence paternal for refusing to do his little Brit Milah.

Nor for Ronit was easy: "My grandparents seemed too, I just wanted to be contrary. I just felt it was right and would not do something because they all do."

Danii Amir was not so clear from the beginning. Circumcised her first son from a previous marriage and was an experience as "weird and traumatic," he decided that would be the last.

"I do not think God would create man with something to be settled after eight days," explains the musician, who is an atmosphere around the circumcision "very different from twenty years ago."

His current wife, Ruth, feels even greater rejection of what he defines as a "barbaric and primitive stronghold of times."

"The Brit Milah is a very chauvinistic, very ‘so says the tribe.’ One way to make that child is not yours, like when you touch go to the army. The last thing my maternal instinct tells me is to my newborn son to a man with a knife," he argues.

New father a few months ago, Ofir also spent the eighth day after birth at home with his girlfriend, away from sharp utensils and blessings of the mohel.

The culprit was a documentary on circumcision that was "before they even thought of becoming a father" and that led him to turn around 180 degrees from its internal debate.

"I went from ‘Why not?’ to ‘why?’ and I realized that the reasons for doing so were large enough," he says.

His father fitted well, but still uses a humorous phrase to ask for the little ones: "How goes the goy (non-Jewish)?"

Sadeh lived on the other hand were really painful. The night before the circumcision ceremony came almost by chance on Internet forums about the Brit Milah and decided to cancel the appointment.

He then spent "months and months" consumed by fear of being wrong, to have condemned his son to taunts and whispers when it came time to strip at daycare, compulsory military service or in front of a girl.

Now he feels he made the right decision: to make his son "his own body, so it has created a virtual forum," Gonen Al Hayeled "to shed light on the Brit Milah."

Others, like Carolina Landsmann, not spent a sleepless night mulling over his head: "For me it was a natural step in the framework of my secular convictions after marrying in Cyprus to avoid doing so by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, where there is no civil marriage."

While a few secular and left-wing profile is far from representing the social mix of their country, this handful of parents have been open at least a symbolic shred the unanimity on the Brit Milah prevailing in the Jewish state.

 

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