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Published: Monday June 30, 2014 MYT 3:55:02 PM
Updated: Monday June 30, 2014 MYT 3:56:26 PM

Israel's top court says mother need not have son circumcised

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's Supreme Court has overturned a ruling by a court of rabbis that would have forced a mother to have her son circumcised under the terms her divorce.

Circumcision is not legally obligatory for Jews in Israel, but a rabbinical court presiding over the woman's divorce case had ruled she must fulfil her husband's wish to carry out the procedure in a religious rite known in Hebrew as a "brit milah".

Last year, the court had ordered her to pay a 500-shekel (88 pounds) daily fine until she complied. The mother then appealed to Israel's highest court.

Circumcision is one of Judaism's most fundamental decrees, symbolising the covenant between God and the Jewish people and nearly all Jews in Israel abide by it, performing the ritual when their babies are eight days old.

Rabbinical courts in Israel have jurisdiction over matters of marriage and divorce and operate under the Justice Ministry.

But the Supreme Court, which has overriding legal authority in the Jewish state, ruled that because the health of the child was at stake, the rabbinic judges had overstepped their mandate.

It also said that since the boy was more than a year old, the surgical procedure would be more medically complicated.

"The issue of circumcision should not be included in the divorce suit," the court said in its ruling on Sunday, according to a transcript provided on Monday. It said the matter should be dealt with by a family court, a secular authority.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Louise Ireland)

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