The Health Ministry and the Chief Rabbinate were accused on Monday of being “irresponsible” for their poor supervision of ritual circumcisers (mohalim) after an investigation by Kan, Israel’s new public broadcasting corporation. The report found that a veteran mohel was sending inexperienced and unsupervised men to circumcise infants born to immigrants from Ethiopia and Muslim foreign workers from Sudan.
The veteran mohel also allegedly charged money from the men for sending them the “jobs.”
Knesset Aliya and Absorption Committee chairman Avraham Neguise headed a noisy and tense session in which a representative of the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Moshe Marciano, claimed that “inexperienced doctors also offer treatment during residency.”
However, residents help out with surgery and always have an experienced doctor at their side. Neguise charged that the incident proves there is discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants, who are socioeconomically weak and uninformed.
“The Health Ministry runs away from responsibility,” he maintained.
MK Dov Hanin said the TV investigation was shocking and exposed “criminal actions.” The police must investigate the matter immediately, added MK Elazar Stern, “This is discrimination between the well-off and the poor.”
MK Sheli Yacimovich said the experienced mohel regarded the immigrants as “nonhumans” – and that newcomers “feel this almost every day, in the street, in school, at work and its dealings with the police.” MK Yossi Yona said he was ashamed “as a Jew, a human being and as an Israeli.” MK Rachel Azaria charged that the rabbinate behaves like a “state within a state.”
Rabbi Pinhas Frankel, who is responsible in the Health Ministry for religious matters, said that circumcision is not defined as a “medical act,” thus supervision of mohalim is carried out jointly by the Health Ministry and the Chief Rabbinate, “which have received many complaints against doctors who perform circumcisions rather than religious circumcisers.”
He added that anyone who comes to perform a circumcision must inform parents if he is licensed or just learning the skill.
The Health Ministry spokesman said the office was “shocked” by the report. It referred queries to Marciano, who suggested that a “cadre of Ethiopian Jewish mohalim be trained so that every Ethopian mother can communicate with him easily.” His statement caused an uproar among the MKs.
Former health minister MK Yael German said the “racism exposed by the TV report” should not be covered up. “This is not the first incident of discrimination against Ethiopian immigrants,” as their blood donations are not used because of fears of HIV exposure. She added that 18 months ago, the Health Ministry received recommendations on allowing blood donations from the immigrants if they’ve lived here for over a decade. However, the ministry has done nothing to implement them, German added.