Woman fined $140 a day for refusing to circumcise son

Rabbinical judges in the case said they fear the effect that allowing Israeli Jews to freely decide on the ritual circumcision of their own children might have on the global debate over the issue. 

A Jewish child is circumcised in a traditional Brit Mila ceremony (Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com)
A Jewish child is circumcised in a traditional Brit Mila ceremony (Illustrative photo by Shutterstock.com)

An Israeli woman is being fined NIS 500 ($140) every day for refusing to circumcise her one-year-old-son, Israel’s Channel 2 reported today. There is no sweeping legal requirement for Jews in Israel to circumcise their children, but the woman is undergoing a divorce process at the Haifa Rabbinical Court, and her husband has appealed to the court to pressure the woman into circumcising the son.

“I’ve been exposed to a lot of information about circumcision and decided not to proceed with the circumcision,” the woman told Channel 2. “I have no right to cut at his genitals and to maim him, and the court has no authority to force me to.” Her lawyer also said the rabbinical court does not have the authority to enforce the procedure, but the secular family court would. The woman went on to add she was unemployed, and cannot afford to pay the fine, which already adds up to NIS 2,500 ($700). She said her husband originally had no objections to avoiding circumcision when the child was born, but changed his mind during the divorce process.

The rabbinical judges in the case said in their decision the woman was opposing the circumcision as a means to bringing her husband back to her. They also referred explicitly to the growing debate around ritual male circumcision elsewhere in the world, and voiced their fear of the precedent that could be created by a Jewish Israeli woman allowed not to circumcise her son.

“We have witnessed for some time now public and legal struggles against the brit milah in many countries in Europe and in the United States,” the judges wrote. “The public in Israel has stood as one man [sic] against these trends, seeing them as yet another aspect of displays of anti-Semitism that must be combatted. How will the world react if even here the issue of circumcision is given to the discretion of any person, according to their own beliefs?”

Religious courts in Israel hold complete sway over all matrimonial issues, including divorce. An appeal to the Haifa District Court by the woman was turned down, and the woman said the only resort left now is an appeal to the Supreme Court.

More on the circumcision debate:
Stand up for your son: Say ‘no’ to ritual circumcision
My (inadequate) justification for circumcision
Outlawing circumcision: Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic