the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at:

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Foreskin Gang

In the oddball Israeli news category, Yisraeli, a relatively new Israeli paper handed out for free at central bus stations and train stations, reported today that police are investigating a group of Haredim suspected of giving "attractive presents" to uncircumcised teenage boys - mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union - as inducements to get them to undergo circumcision under unsanitary conditions in a Jerusalem apartment.

According to the report, the suspects have fled the country, and police are searching for them in the hope of charging them with proselytizing to minors. The article said the boys involved were 16 and 17, but did not say how many teens had been targeted.

The article leaves readers in the lurch about a few intriguing questions. For instance, is proselytizing to minors really the most fitting charge police could come up with? After all, if the boys were Jewish, is it really proselytizing? Surely the crime shouldn't be talking to them about their own religion but operating on a minor without the guardian's consent? (I haven't looked into it, but that sounds like something that should generally be illegal in a non-emergency situation.)

And if the boys weren't Jewish, it doesn't strike me as likely that the Foreskin Gang would want to circumcise them. Judaism sees no virtue in circumcising Christians; on the contrary, brit milah is a sign of belonging to the Jewish people.

The article also left me wondering: What exactly were those presents??

I'm also kind of curious about the method the Foreskin Gang allegedly used. The paper says members of the "Haredi network" sent representatives to schools to locate uncircumcised students, offer them the presents and get them to agree to be circumcised. Then the Gang is said to have whisked the boys off in the middle of the night to a "hidden apartment" that police found lacked "basic sanitary conditions for carrying out the operations."

Umm... Locating uncircumcised students in schools? Does this mean they were spending their time lurking in the locker room? The whole story sounds pretty creepy to me.


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