Peres to German president: End circumcision row

German Ethics Council conditionally supports the ritual, following an anti-circumcision ruling in Cologne.

Shimon Peres 370 (photo credit: Wikicommons)
Shimon Peres 370
(photo credit: Wikicommons)
President Shimon Peres called on German President Joachim Gauck on Thursday to resolve the German legal issues around circumcision, Army Radio reported.
"Circumcision has constituted a central aspect of our nation's Jewish identity over thousands of years. The value of religious freedom for the Jewish community must be preserved," Peres wrote Gacuk in a letter. Peres hosted Gauck at the Presidential Residence in May.
The controversy follows a criminal complaint filed this week by a physician in Germany against Rabbi David Goldberg, a mohel based in Hof Saale, Bavaria, for performing brit mila.
Germany’s Ethics Council came out in conditional support of circumcision, its chairwoman Christiane Woopen said Thursday following a council meeting.
According to German media, Woopen said that the agreement of both parents should be necessary, the possibility of anesthesia should be introduced to alleviate pain and there should be comprehensive education about the risks associated with circumcision.
Additionally, the procedure should be carried out by medical professional.
The members of the ethics council recommended a committee consisting of Jews, Muslims, parent groups and doctors from various disciplines to participate in clarifying Germany's position on the issue. According to reports, members of the Ethics council had differing views on the ritual's place in Germany.
Hamburg-based legal expert Reinhard Merkel stressed at the meeting that he considers circumcision without anesthesia to be" legally and ethically not acceptable.” He added this should not be allowed to take place.
The deputy representative of the ethics council, the evangelical theologian,  Peter Dabrock, advocated for “proven effective pain therapy measures” for the procedure.
However, the Cologne legal expert, Wolfram Höfling, said it is necessary to have a “recognition of circumcision as a parental right." He conditioned his advocacy of circumcision on the avoidance of pain during the process.
Leo Latasch, a Jewish physician on the council, suggested he was amenable to a local anesthesia. He said anesthesia is already a customary method in Germany. Latasch flatly rejected that circumcision of young boys is comparable with genital mutilation of young girls.According to Latasch, medical complications take place in less than 0.2 percent of the cases by circumcision  and there is no proof that the procedure results in traumatic after effects. 
The Muslim medical ethicist Ilhan Ilkiliç called for a “factual” debate. He warned of operations in back rooms without supervision and a “circumcision tourism“ if lawmakers do not react to the Cologne decision criminalizing circumcision.
On Wednesday Interior Minister Eli Yishai wrote a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking her to intervene against any measures that might criminalize circumcision in her country.
According to the DPA news service, the authorities in Bavaria are examining the complaint for “criminal relevancy.”
However, following the Cologne ruling Bavarian authorities said that they would not enforce the decision in their state.
In his letter, Yishai pointed out that several European countries have acted against circumcision carried out according to Jewish tradition.
“As deputy prime minister, interior minister and leader of the largest religious party [in Israel], but mostly as a Jew, I turn to you to ask you to prevent this phenomenon from continuing,” the Shas chairman wrote.
The interior minister asked Merkel to ensure that Jews can continue to proudly live fully Jewish lives in Germany.
“Circumcision is one of the most important commandments for the Jewish people, and the first given to one of the fathers of our nation, Abraham, as a sign of his eternal treaty [with God],” Yishai said. “Even in times of slavery and exile, Jews made sure to fulfill this commandment, and did so happily,” he added, quoting from the Book of Genesis.
Jews in Germany should not have to choose between the local law and God’s commandments, which protected Jews over the years, the Shas chairman wrote. They should not have to pick Judaism or their citizenship.
Jeremy Sharon and Lahav Harkov and contributed to this report.