The annual ritual of kapparot has been banned this year – at least in public places – in the cities of Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion and in Tel Aviv.
The practice involves a pre-Yom Kippur ritual in which a chicken is swung gently over the head of the individual who recites a prayer of penitence, in which he offers the chicken in exchange for himself as expiation for his sins.
A hen is used for a woman or girl, a rooster for a man or boy. For a pregnant woman, both.
The chicken, which is purchased alive, is then donated to a charity organization which then ritually slaughters the bird in accordance with the kosher laws of the Torah, and distributes the meat to needy Jewish families.
“We will not allow slaughter or any other harm to befall animals in order to fulfill the kapparot ritual in open places or in the public arena,” the Tel Aviv municipality announced in a statement last week.
“As a city that champions animal rights, the municipality sees itself as obligated to prevent any harm to animals and to maintain their rights, for the same reason it has prohibited the use of animals in circuses.”
In Petah Tikva the municipality warned that performance of the kapparot ritual, even without slaughtering the chicken afterwards – as is customary in many places – requires the approval of the city’s veterinary service.
The issue of religious practice versus “animal rights” has long been a bitter dispute in the United States and Europe, but has gradually become an issue in Israel as well.
In some cases abroad, animal rights organizations use the opportunity to file full-blown lawsuits against Jewish groups who sponsor the annual religious ritual, which groups also use as a fundraiser to help create the annual fund from which they assist needy families.