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“It is the covenant between us and God - a sign that one cannot deny and that Jews have kept even in times of persecution,” said one well-known mohel who has been performing circumcisions in Israel for more than 30 years. He asked not to be named to avoid being connected to any controversy.
He pointed to the Book of Genesis, where God said to Abraham: “And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins; and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”
It is this covenant that, the mohel said, that “keeps the people of Israel together”.
The Bible goes on: “And the uncircumcised male child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
Scholars have differed over the years what this means in practice.
Tamir is unswayed by the ancient verses.
“This edict is painful, irreversible and maims,” she said. The Internet was helping to spread the word, she said, allowing parents to find information about circumcision and seek advice anonymously.
Some Jewish groups in the United States which oppose circumcision offer alternative religious brit ceremonies that do not include an actual circumcision.
“There is definitely a growing number of Jewish families in the U.S. who are choosing not to circumcise,” said Florida-based Rebecca Wald. In 2010 she started a website to connect parents who are unsure about what to do.
“Since then, in phone calls, emails, and on social networking sites I have connected with hundreds of Jewish people in the U.S. who question circumcision.” she said in an email interview. “Many of them have intact (uncircumcised) sons or plan to leave future sons intact.”