Yediot (Israel) – May 6, 1997
Israelis opposed to Brit Milah found an organization “against genital mutilation”:
Tens of Israeli parents don’t circumcise their sons for ideological reasons.
“There is no need to cut anything to be Jewish,” claim parents who belong to the new organization.
“Circumcision may lead to mental trauma, long-term medical complications and a reduction in sexual pleasure.”
Professor of gynecology: “The Brit lowers the chance of infectious diseases for men and women.”
By Itamar Eichner
In the Jewish state live today tens, maybe hundreds of parents who decided, for ideological reasons, to spare their sons from the Brit Milah and leave them whole the way they were born. In addition, there are quite a few adult men who never underwent a circumcision, not to mention the thousands of new immigrants who were not circumcised.
This phenomenon is getting public attention, perhaps for the first time, after the establishment of the Association Against Genital Mutilation. The organization was founded by human rights activists who see the Brit Milah as a barbarous and primitive act that must be banished forever—and quickly.
The Jewish judgment about circumcision is so strict that even children who die before the Milah must be circumcised to enter the congregation and be buried as a Jew. There have been cases in Israel in which burial in a Jewish cemetery was refused to babies who didn’t undergo circumcision.
However, Brit Milah hasn’t been only ours for a long time. Hundreds of millions of people the world over, belonging to all religions, have undergone circumcision. The Jewish rite is one among thirteen other different and strange forms of genital cuttings on the male organ.
Movements against circumcision have appeared recently in the US and in Europe, claiming that it must be banned not only because it is barbaric, but also because it is harmful to health. One study found that the pain threshold of baby boys who underwent circumcision was lower than that of boys who were not circumcised. “Many more boys die from circumcision than from genital infections,” claims one of the organization’s founders, Rafi Rozen from Eilat.
However, many researchers are still convinced that circumcision contributes to the body’s hygiene and prevents sexual diseases. According to Professor Uzi Beler, gynecologist at the Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem, “Circumcision diminishes the chances of both men and women to get several infectious diseases. Circumcision simply lowers the chance of contagious infections developing in the sexual organs.”
“If you want to keep clean, you can always wash the foreskin. There is no need to cause so much pain to the baby,” obstinately insists Rafi Rozen, who also claims that circumcision decreases the male’s potential for sexual pleasure.
As proof the organization’s members present a text written by Maimonides in Moreh Nevokhim on the reduction of pleasure from coitus as a result of circumcision: “One of the reasons for circumcision is to make sexual intercourse less frequent and to weaken the organ as much as possible . . . to control unnecessary desire, since circumcision adversely affects the potential for erections.”
The organization’s members don’t limit themselves to quoting Maimonides, but point also to Israeli legislation against abuse and maltreatment of the innocent, according to which, in their view, Brit Milah is an illegal act. “They take a defenseless baby and they circumcise him without asking him,” says a female member of the organization. “They cause him mental and physical damage while people stand next to him, eat burekas and orangeade, without paying any attention to the baby’s screams. In our opinion, those by-standers violate the law as well.”
The organization counts in its midtst tens of activists, among them parents who chose not to circumcise their sons. The members meet every other week and exchange ideas and opinions. They plan to be more active in the future, going to centers for natural birth to try to convince parents not to circumcise their sons.
Jonathan and Limor Enosh from Tel Aviv have been convinced already. They gave birth three months ago to their son Tzof and decided to spare him from Brit Milah. “For a long time my wife and I were opposed to circumcision, thinking it was a cruel and painful act,” says Jonathan. When Tzof was born, we told our families that we weren’t going to circumcise him. They immediately shouted at us and threatened to ostracize us. Our friends showed little openness and claimed that the boy would be laughed at in kindergarten, the school, and the army.”
“I told our families that whoever believes that the Brit makes a child Jewish is wrong,” tells a woman from Jerusalem whose two sons, ages 7 and 14, were not circumcised. “There is no need to cut off anything to be Jewish. A majority of parents do the Brit because they fear that their sons would be different from the rest, but the whole circumcision thing is superfluous. I decided not to take part in a deed that could lead to long-term mental trauma and physical harm, as well as reducing their pleasure in bed. If they chose to undergo the Brit Milah as adults, I will not stand in their way.”
Also the singer and literary critic Menachem Ben didn’t arrange a Brit Milah for his sons—in spite of his firm belief in God and the Bible. “It is possible to do a Brit Milah at a level specified in the Torah: ‘And you circumcised the foreskin in your heart,’ ” he claims with insistence. “I circumcised my sons my own way, without cutting, by reading verses from the Bible.”
The Rabbi Bakshi Doron:
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, the Rishon leTzion Eliahu Bakshi Doron was not surprised by the establishment of the Association Against Genital Mutilation.
“To my great chagrin I knew that this would happen,” he says. “Self-hate has taken hold of the people. The idea that anything Jewish is abominable has spread to the Brit Milah as well, that most Jewish sign, a simple procedure against which nothing can be said.”
Even the claims about possible damage caused by circumcision do not, in the Rabbi’s opinion, justify any doubts about this ancient custom. “Who can decide that we are dealing with something primitive, antiquated, and painful? God be blessed, the Jewish people lived like this already for many generations. Even if circumcision harms sexual pleasure, that is not a tragedy.”