Israeli Woman Fined $140 a Day for Refusing to Circumcise Son

In unprecedented ruling, court obligates mother to circumcise son or be penalized; In divorce hearing, father insists boy be circumcised.

Netta Ahituv
Netta Ahituv
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Netta Ahituv
Netta Ahituv

An Israeli rabbinical court has handed down a precedent-setting ruling that requires a mother to circumcise her son, against her will, or pay a fine of NIS 500 ($140) for every day he remains uncircumcised.

“The baby was born with a medical problem, so we couldn’t circumcise him on the eighth day as is customary,” said Elinor, the boy’s mother. “As time went on, I started reading about what actually happens in circumcision, and I realized that I couldn’t do that to my son. He’s perfect just as he is.”

The mother said that the baby’s father had a part in the decision, but when the couple began to discuss their divorce in the rabbinical court, he unexpectedly decided to insist that their son be circumcised.

Israel's rabbinical courts are part of the country's justice system and have legal jurisdiction over matters of religion, including marriage and divorce, when it comes to the country's Jewish citizens.

On October 29, the rabbinical court judges handed down a ruling obligating the mother to have her son circumcised within a week.

“Circumcision is a standard surgical procedure that is performed on every Jewish baby boy, so when one of the parents demands it, the other cannot delay it except where it is proven to be medically dangerous,” wrote the judges, Rabbis Michael Amos, Shneur Pardes and Ariel Yannai.

“Fulfilling the command of circumcision is not a [mere] surgical medical act," they added. "…Brit milah [the rite of circumcision] is exactly what it says: a covenant that God made with His chosen people, the nation of Israel.”

Elinor, through her attorney Marcella Wolf, appealed the decision to a higher rabbinical court, but her appeal was denied on Sunday. The court also left in place the NIS 500 fine that she is required to pay for every day she leaves her son uncircumcised.

In their decision to deny the woman's appeal, the judges, rabbis Tzion Boaron, Masoud Elhadad and Shmuel Shahor, wrote: “If the mother is given the opportunity to prevent the circumcision or use her objection [to the procedure] as a tool to make headway in the divorce struggle, we could find ourselves facing a flood of cases like these, and then divorce proceedings will take on a terrifying dimension. This trend must be stopped immediately for the common good, which takes precedence over that of the individual.”

Elsewhere in the ruling, the judges wrote: “Removal of the foreskin prepares the soul [of the baby] to accept the yoke of Heaven and study God’s Torah and commandments.”

The judges also expressed their view on the uproar over circumcision taking place in Europe and in the United States: “We have been seeing public and legal fights against circumcision in the United States and Europe for quite some time,” they wrote. “The public in Israel stands united against this phenomenon, seeing it as another aspect of the anti-Semitic acts that must be fought.”

Elinor plans to petition the High Court of Justice to annul the rabbinical court’s decision.

A Jewish circumcision ceremony.Credit: Limor Edry

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