Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked his Danish counterpart on Saturday after she voiced opposition to a bill that would ban circumcision for non-medical reasons in Denmark, citing a national commitment to to preserve the Jewish community
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu spoke with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and gave his appreciation for her position, saying that the defense of the Jewish community and the ancient tradition of circumcision is “a matter of maintaining Jewish identity through the generations.”
Netanyahu told Frederiksen he hopes that Denmark will remain committed to protecting its Jewish population as it did during the Nazi occupation of the country during World War II.
The leaders also discussed dealing with the challenges of the coronavirus, the statement said.
On Thursday Frederiksen, of the ruling Social Democrat party, said “Danish Jews must continue to be part of Denmark.”
Frederiksen made the statement during an interview on TV2 about a bill submitted last month in parliament by a leader of the left-wing Forward party, which seeks to outlaw the circumcision of minors without medical reason, as done by Muslims and Jews.
She appeared to reference the fate of Danish Jews during the Holocaust, when hundreds of boat owners smuggled thousands of Jews to safety in Sweden and beyond the reach of the Nazi occupation.
“Many Jews do not find it compatible to live in a country where circumcision is banned,” she said. “I simply do not believe that we can make a decision in which we do not live up to the promise we made, namely that the Danish Jews must continue to be part of Denmark.”
Several major political parties have said they support a ban, which has widespread popular support in Denmark by those who believe the procedure is abusive, as well as from opponents of Muslim immigration.
Rabbi Yitzi Loewenthal, the emissary of the Chabad Hasidic movement in Denmark, wrote in a statement that Danish Jews “are grateful to the prime minister and others who have come out clearly against” the bill.
“Denmark was a beacon of light,” Loewenthal wrote. “We hope that light burns strong and long.”
Henri Goldstein, the president of the Jewish Community in Denmark, has said the potential ban represents “the worst threat since World War II” to the country’s Jews, who traditionally circumcise baby boys on their eighth day of life, a ritual known as brit milah.
In 2018, a bill to ban non-medical circumcision was introduced in Iceland, but it was scrapped amid an international outcry. Currently, circumcision remains legal throughout Europe.