Israeli parliament slams German circumcision ban

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(AP) – An Israeli parliamentary committee on Monday denounced a ruling in Germany banning ritual circumcision, saying the decision infringes upon religious freedom and evokes memories of the worst chapter in German history, the Holocaust. A regional court in Cologne recently ruled that circumcising young boys for religious reasons amounts to bodily harm, even if parents agree to it. Circumcision of baby boys is a fundamental Jewish religious ritual.

The ruling was particularly sensitive, given German history and the Holocaust of World War II, when 6 million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators. Committee chairman Danny Danon invited the German ambassador to Israel to parliament, seeking clarifications to the court ruling. “Circumcision is one of the pillars of Judaism, and the last time it was restricted was in Germany during its darkest hour,” Danon said at the meeting with the ambassador, which was open to reporters.

Danon said that Israel would not tolerate restrictions on the practice of Judaism anywhere in the world, “and certainly not in Germany.”

The German ambassador, Andreas Michaelis, told the Israeli lawmakers his country was working to resolve the issue and that the ruling doesn’t apply at the national level. “It’s clear that the ruling prohibiting circumcision is more sensitive in Germany because of the Holocaust,” Michaelis said. He noted that the Jewish community in Germany, practically wiped out during the Holocaust, is growing.

The ruling has also drawn criticism from many Muslims, who view circumcision as an important practice in their faith. A German Justice Ministry spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity according to government regulations, said Monday that legislative action might be needed to protect religious traditions in the wake of the court ruling. “It’s being examined whether there needs to be a change to the laws and if so, in which form,” she said.

Pinchas Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow and the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said the court’s decision was part of what he saw as growing infringement upon religious freedom in Europe. “We see this development as part of the larger problem in Europe today,” he said, citing France’s ban on the face-covering Muslim veils and Switzerland’s ban on the construction of new minarets for mosques.

“We are hopeful to see the German government address this issue as fast as possible,” he said.

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