Merkel to German Jews: Respecting Circumcision is Fundamental
Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to ease the concerns of Germany's Jews over a disputed ruling against circumcision on Sunday, as she became the first chancellor to address the Jewish community's annual council meeting.
"The respecting of religious ritual is a fundamental good," she told the annual gathering of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in the western city of Frankfurt, AFP reported.
"I am delighted... that there is a lively Jewish community in Germany," added the chancellor.
In a ruling published in June, a court in the western city of Cologne judged the rite to be tantamount to grievous bodily harm, prompting international outrage and calls for more legal clarity.
The Cologne ruling united Jewish and Muslim groups in opposition and German diplomats admitted privately that it had proved "disastrous" for Germany's international image, particularly in light of its Nazi past.
Merkel was reported to have cautioned that Germany risked becoming a "laughing stock" if circumcision were banned in the country.
Last month, Merkel's cabinet passed a draft law to permit circumcision and clarify the legal situation.
Merkel said she believed it to be a "balanced text", according to AFP.
"I hope it can be agreed in the Bundestag before Christmas," she added, referring to the German lower house of parliament.
The new bill stipulated certain provisos for a boy to be circumcised. Among these conditions, the draft law said the practice must be carried out "professionally" and "with the most effective pain relief".
An exception must also be made in individual cases if there are health risks.
The head of the central committee for Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, thanked Merkel for her assistance in what he described as "difficult times."
"It is important that German politicians acted and came up with legislation that we can live with," Graumann said.
"This visit has done us good in a time that is difficult for us," he added.
Merkel also used the visit to reiterate Berlin's support of Israel following eight days of violence in and around Gaza.
"Every country has the right to defend itself. This is not only the right but also the duty of every government," added Merkel.
Germany played a role in the efforts to achieve a ceasefire during Operation Pillar of Defense. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was in Israel last Tuesday, and told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, "I’m here to underline that Germany stands by our friends in Israel, and Israel has every right to defend itself and protect their own citizens against these missile attacks from Gaza into your country, Prime Minister. Of course we now have to consider and discuss how a cease-fire is possible. But there is one key condition for everything else, and that is the stop of the missile attacks against Israel.”