Israeli Circumcision Experts Head to Africa

Techniques Honed With Russians Helps Continent Fight AIDS

Celebrating Circumcision: Israeli health professionals celebrate with South African colleagues after completing a training mission.
Courtesy of Operation Abraham
Celebrating Circumcision: Israeli health professionals celebrate with South African colleagues after completing a training mission.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published December 26, 2011, issue of January 06, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Its expertise has also impacted government policy in the AIDS-ravaged southern African nation of Swaziland, where about a quarter of all adults are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. In 2008, the government there had drawn up protocols for doctors, recommending a particular method — sleeve resection. However, after Operation Abraham convinced officials that a different method — forceps-guided — was more suitable for mass adult circumcision, the protocols were amended accordingly.

The Israeli doctors’ involvement goes far beyond the theoretical level. Over the past four years, 10 delegations of Israeli healthcare professionals have travelled to the cities of Manzini and Mbabane in Swaziland.

They also went to KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, where circumcision is in particular demand, both because of the high rate of AIDS and the fact that the king of the predominant Zulu tribe, Goodwill Zwelithini, reintroduced it as a rite for his tribe two centuries after a predecessor suspended it.

Tens of thousands of circumcisions have been performed, and doctors from Zambia and Zimbabwe have visited to learn skills that they have taken back to their own countries. Running the clinics are Operation Abraham trainees: 70 doctors, each of whom can perform some 40 circumcisions a day, and 130 nurses and other support staff.

He said that while the exchange between local professionals and Israeli visitors has mainly been on medical matters, the roots of circumcision in the religions of the visiting Israelis and Senegalese have proved “intellectually simulating and fascinating” for his staff, many of whom are Christians.

For the Operation Abraham volunteers, the delegations are physically and emotionally taxing.

“It’s so sad to go and see so many people suffering from AIDS, but we felt that with these efforts it may not be as bad in the future,” said Lilach Malatskey, a family practitioner who led the latest delegation.

Inon Schenker, Operation Abraham’s global health consultant, believes that the benefits of the team’s work goes beyond AIDS prevention. The populations signing up for circumcision tend to steer clear of doctors, and lack sex education and medical attention for other sexual and reproductive health issues. The fact they are visiting clinics for circumcision presents an “unbelievable opportunity” to rectify this — one that team members are encouraging local doctors to use, both by providing educational material to read during waiting time and by talking to patients. “I saw one young man in KwaZulu-Natal, and taking a few extra minutes to talk to him,” Schenker said. “you could see his eyes shining in front of you. Everyone he heard was preaching to put on condoms, but the ideas we were talking about, such as respect of women, went beyond that. [It] made a difference.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.