An interview with Elinor, the mom who is forced by a religious court to circumcise her one year old son

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The interview was aired in Hebrew on Guy Zohar's show 103FM 

Following is an English translation of the transcript:

Guy Zohar: Yesterday we've read to you a very emotional post by Elinor, a mom, who wrote on her Facebook page: "HELP! I ask the help of the people. I am a mother to a baby, I am in tears and crying for help. The religious rabbinical court is forcing me to cut my one year old son against my will (Brit Milah), by imposing daily heavy financial sanctions."
Shalom, Elinor.

Elinor: Shalom.

Guy Zohar: Please explain the situation. What's going on here?

Elinor: It's inconceivable, unfathomable. It's something that raises the question of what kind of culture we live in. The religious rabbinical court, during a divorce case, takes upon itself to pass judgment on an issue that is not within its authority. It's not in anyone's authority to force me as a mother to cut my son against my will, and the rabbinical court parcels this issue in the divorce case and forces me by daily financial sanctions…

Guy Zohar: what do you mean, 'daily'?

Elinor: Every day I have to pay N.I.S 500 for not circumcising my son.

Guy Zohar: Every day that passes, that you're not complying with the court order, you need to pay N.I.S 500.

Elinor: That's correct. And I don't have that kind of money, not even close.

Guy Zohar: When did the court give this decision?

Elinor: On the 21th (of November, 2013).

Guy Zohar: That means you already owe N.I.S 3,000.

Elinor: That's correct.

Guy Zohar: You need to clarify the situation, as far as you can. The baby is one year old, right?

Elinor: Right.

Guy Zohar: We need to understand the story. When the baby was born, were you and the father together?

Elinor: When I gave birth, yes. Shortly after that, the father filed for divorce in the religious rabbinical court. In the papers he did not mention anything about Brit Milah. Not only that, for a whole year he did nothing…

Guy Zohar: Is the Gett (=Jewish divorce verdict) final?

Elinor: No. Not yet.

Guy Zohar: Did you intend, did you know from the beginning that you don't want to circumcise your son? Was it something that you two have discussed? Did you reach an agreement regarding this issue?

Elinor: There was an agreement between us, there was no objection on the part of the father to not circumcising our son, and suddenly, in a hearing I did not attend because of illness, the father raised this issue during the hearing in the rabbinical court, he did not file any official written motion regarding this issue, they did not give me a chance to voice my opinion in the matter, and in a quite prompt and decisive manner, immediately at the end of this hearing, the court issued an order, accompanied by financial sanctions, that if I would not perform Brit Milah within seven days, I will have to pay a fine of N.I.S 500 per day until I will circumcise my son.

Guy Zohar: I am still trying to understand the context.

Elinor: Yes.

Guy Zohar: What in fact is their argument? Do they think you're using this as a weapon against your husband within the divorce proceedings?

Elinor: That's what they say. But I don't understand how did they come up with that. If the husband has filed for divorce and I said I preferred Shlom Bayit (peace in the house), then how exactly I'm the one who is flexing her muscles?? Something here just don't make any sense.

Guy Zohar: Did you two get married before of after the you got pregnant?

Elinor: We married before I got pregnant.

Guy Zohar: I want to quote from the rabbinical court ruling: “Brit Milah,” the religious judges write, “is a standard surgical procedure that every Jewish boy undergoes. Therefore, when one of the parents demand it, the other party cannot prevent it unless the other party can show that it is medically unsafe.” It means, that in the State of Israel, a Jewish boy must be circumcised if one of the parents want it. This is what I understand from this text, unless I don't understand anything. This is why, just to be on the safe side, we asked a jurist, an expert in the field to give his opinion. Shalom, Dr. Yair Shibber.

Dr. Yair Shibber: Shalom.

Guy Zohar: You are an expert in family law, you are a professor in Bar Illan University law school and in Netanya College. Have you heard the quote?

Dr. Yair Shibber: Yes, I did.

Guy Zohar: Am I the only one who's surprised by this?

Dr. Yair Shibber: I am also surprised by it, because, with all due respect, indeed in the state of Israel and in the Jewish population the issue of Brit Milah is not addressed by the law. It is something that is governed by Jewish law. When parents want to do Brit Milah, they can, no one prevents them from doing that, there's no law that forbids that, but there is also no law that mandates it.

Guy Zohar: Buy when there is a disagreement between the parents….

Dr. Yair Shibber: Exactly. When we're talking about the parents, they are both the natural guardians of this minor, and they both have equal rights in deciding what shall be done with the minor, or not be done with the minor… once there is a physical disagreement about a certain minor, whether a procedure should or should not be carried out, then the law says that the State Attorney's opinion must be heard, in order to protect the rights of the minor, and there is no reason in the world to force a mother or a father, one of the parties who object the surgical procedure, even if the rabbinical court thinks it's not risky to perform on the minor. Indeed, I think that the rabbinical court has no jurisdiction in this matter. This ruling is a form of religious oppression upon someone who is not willing to accept it. I have to say that I myself have three boys, and they all underwent Brit Milah but with the full consent of my wife.

Guy Zohar: Of course, of course. And as long as the two parents, the natural guardians, are present, you need consent from both of them.

Dr. Yair Shibber: That's correct. There is no doubt about it. And since we're talking about a minor here, and the interests of the minor are not properly represented in this situation, I think that the jurisdiction over this matter should lie, if anywhere, in the hands of the civil family court.

Guy Zohar: It's as if they said that the default should be to circumcise, which sounds absurd.

Dr. Yair Shibber: It's exactly what's absurd about it. The default should be exactly the opposite: if one of the parents refuses, you cannot force him or her to do it.

Elinor: We're not talking here about a medical procedure that is required to treat something, we're talking about a religious practice, that is performed based on a religious belief, which I don't share, I am a secular person, and no one can force me to do it against my will. This is the body of the child, and this is his right, his body – his right.

Guy Zohar: No, no. We're not having a debate about circumcision – yes or no. We're discussing …

Elinor: Religious oppression.

Guy Zohar: Yes, the aspect of religious oppression, that if there's a disagreement between the two parents, why were they so decisive in favor of Brit Milah. Am I correct, Dr. Shibber?

Dr. Yair Shibber: I think, with all due respect, and I have a lot of respect for Jewish law and Jewish tradition which our ancestors adhered to throughout the ages, and I myself followed, but with all due respect, there is a line that has to be drawn, and this line should be very clear, otherwise there's no end to it. Today is Brit Milah, and no one can tell what next.

Guy Zohar: Very good, Dr. Shibber. What can be done? She is obviously represented by a lawyer, and I understand they are going to appeal. But is there really an authority that can overturn… because we know that in matters of divorce it is very complicated in the rabbinical courts system.

Dr. Yair Shibber: No. It's not complicated at all. There is a law in Israel. I assume that her lawyer will recommend to appeal to the High rabbinical court, and then the High rabbinical court…

Elinor: No, no, I have already appealed to the High rabbinical court.

Dr. Yair Shibber: Very good. And then the High rabbinical court, if it decides to affirm the decision of the regional rabbinical court, then there is the supreme court, in its capacity as a High Court of Justice, which can be addressed.

Guy Zohar: The High rabbinical court has already dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision.

Dr. Yair Shibber: Oh, so the appeal has already been dismissed and the decision was upheld.

Guy Zohar: Yes. It was affirmed.

Dr. Yair Shibber: Then, there's no two ways about it. They need to file a petition with the High Court of Justice. Look, this is a clear case of constitutional law… we're talking about parental rights.

Guy Zohar: I want to quote from the ruling of the High rabbinical court, the religious judges are Boaron, El-hadad and Shahor: “if an opening will be made now, and the mother will be given an opportunity to prevent Brit Milah or use her objection as an instrument to accomplish her goals in the divorce battle, we might find ourselves facing a torrent of such cases, and then another horrific dimension will be added to the divorce proceedings.” It means that they see the mother's objection to circumcision as a maneuver in the divorce battle. Now, it may be so, but it is not relevant. I think. If I understand something about natural justice. Do you agree?

Dr. Yair Shibber: Look, I don't know. I did not attend the hearings in the rabbinical court and I don't know how this issue came up. I heard what Elinor said about the circumstances under which the issue came up. In any rate, I don't think…

Guy Zohar: Oh, oh, just a moment, there is an important addition. They wrote: “The removal of the foreskin prepares the soul of the child to receive the burden of the heavenly kingdom and to study the Torah of God and his commandments.”

Dr. Yair Shibber: That's all well and good, but they only need to rule according to the law, not according to Jewish law, with all due respect.

Guy Zohar: I totally agree. I want to thank Neta Ahituv for giving us all the quotes in Haaretz. So, Elinor, what's next?

Elinor: I don't have too many options now. I have only one way ahead of me, and this is to file a petition to the High Court of Justice. And I hope that the High Court of Justice will make a just decision, that the body of the child belongs to him, and that it is his exclusive right to decide upon his own body. To cut his genitals is irreversible. It's not like I'm making a decision about his education, which school will he go to.

Guy Zohar: We are obligated to make a fair presentation, but I must admit that this discussion is completely unbalanced, we honestly cannot find any judicial, democratic, basis for the…

Dr. Yair Shibber: Prima facie, based on how you presented the case, there is no judicial grounds for the ruling.

Elinor: none, whatsoever.

Guy Zohar: Elinor, we will continue to watch this case. Do you have a date for the hearing in the High Court of Justice?

Elinor: Not yet, we are now preparing the petition. I am a victim here, and this is a slippery road to much worse things.

Guy Zohar: I totally agree.

Elinor: The fact that the rabbinical court is the only institution through which a couple can get married in Israel, does not grant it the power to include any religious thing and force it upon secular people.

Guy Zohar: Thank you very much Elinor. And good luck. We will keep in touch. Thank you Dr. Yair Shibber for your clear and cut opinion. It sure helped.

Dr. Yair Shibber: Good day.

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2 תגובות על An interview with Elinor, the mom who is forced by a religious court to circumcise her one year old son