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Israeli rabbi weighs in on German circumcision debate

An Israeli rabbi has suggested that doctors train people who carry out circumcisions in Germany. In June, a Cologne court had ruled the procedure illegal as a religious rite carried out on children without their consent.

Yona Metzger, one of Israel's principal rabbis, hit back at the court's suggestion that circumcision constitutes grievous bodily harm. Metzger noted that the rite has been practiced for 4,000 years, and 1,800 in Germany, calling it the "root of the Jewish soul" and a tradition "that you can never depart from."

"We give the infant a drop of sweet wine" Metzger said, in order to somewhat anesthetize them before the procedure. "Doctors should also study the teaching material and decide whether a circumciser is competent," he added, speaking at a press conference in Berlin.

Though surveys showed that a majority of Germans approved of the verdict, outrage at the ruling by Muslims and Jews has rippled around the globe. Diplomats have said that the ruling has proved "disastrous" to Germany's international image, particularly in light of the country's Nazi past.

In July, the German parliament adopted a nonbinding cross-party resolution to protect religious circumcision. The resolution urges the government to draw up legislation that "ensures that the circumcision of boys carried out to medically professional standards and without undue pain is fundamentally permissible." The Justice Ministry has announced that it is close to publishing a draft of a bill.

It is not clear if Germany will require that circumcision be carried out with a local anesthetic. Metzger said that Jewish practice forbids the practice.

mkg/pfd (AFP, dpa)