The legal adviser to the rabbinical court submitted Thursday its ruling on the appeal by a mother who is opposed to having her son circumcised. “On the altar of the petitioner’s right to freedom of religion, she is suggesting that she will ignore the irreversible psychological damage that is liable to be caused to the child due to his being an exception in the society of the children around him − and that must not be done!” the ruling stated.
The adviser, attorney Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, is asking the High Court of Justice to reject the petition of the mother - who petitioned the High Court after the rabbinical court ordered her to pay 500 shekels a day ($143) until she agrees to have her son circumcised - and to cancel the interim injunction postponing the implementation of the Supreme Rabbinical Court ruling.
The baby’s parents are in the midst of divorce proceedings, and disagree on performing the circumcision. The rabbinical court accepted the husband’s viewpoint and ruled that the baby must be circumcised by a doctor in a hospital. But three weeks ago the High Court issued an interim injunction postponing implementation of the ruling.
Yaakobi replied to the petition on behalf of the rabbinical courts, and is basing his position on a case from 1998 in which the High Court rejected a petition filed against the health minister by the Ben Shalem association, which lobbies against circumcision. The High Court rejected the petition in a brief ruling, but Yaakobi cites at length from the reply of the state, which says, among other things, that “the point of view is that the welfare of the child requires performing a circumcision, both for religious reasons and due to the social perspective and the social consensus regarding the essence of circumcision.”
Yaakobi also quotes from another High Court decision several years earlier, which addressed whether a Jewish woman who had joined a messianic Christian group could raise her children in that spirit, contrary to the opinion of her husband, from whom she was getting divorced. According to Yaakobi, High Court President Meir Shamgar distinguished between “physical custody,” which would be given to the mother, and “spiritual custody,” which would remain with the Jewish father.
“Differences of opinion between parents on matters of their world view, including their religious world view, do not meant that the dispute is not justiciable, as the petitioner suggests − neither in terms of the welfare of the child nor in terms of the child’s rights,” wrote Yaakobi. “Children have a right not to have their religion changed without their knowledge. Since they are still incapable of forming an opinion, it is the role of the state to protect their right not to have their religion changed, and to protect them from attempts of this kind. This above-mentioned role of the state is reinforced when it comes to a family in crisis, in other words, when the parents are not of the same opinion. In that case, the children were born and brought up as Jews. In their family and their natural environment they are surrounded by Jews. The children did not express any desire to join the mother’s sect.”
Yaakobi also supports his reply with a survey cited on the Ynet website in 2007, according to which 97 percent of Jews in Israel will circumcise their sons.
“The minor child who is the object of this affair was born to a normal Jewish-Israeli family,” he wrote. “In their natural surroundings the couple and their children are surrounded by Jews who perform circumcisions on their sons. In a year or two the minor will attend a nursery school where he will be surrounded by children who were circumcised, and it is no secret that toddlers are capable of noticing anything unusual, and enough said.
“The petitioner, who wants her young toddler to experience a feeling of superfluous exceptionalism that is liable to lead to feelings of inferiority and a serious psychological harm, is not doing the right thing. The petitioner does not have the good of the child at heart. The child has a right not to be different from his friends who were circumcised. The good of the child and his right to be circumcised like every Jewish child in Israel cannot be a sacrifice − in contradiction of the wishes of the child’s father − on the altar of the petitioner’s right to freedom from religion.”