Monday, June 20, 2011

Dog-Lawyer Stoning Story Is A Hoax

Late last week, international headlines were made with the sensational story of a dog being stoned in a Rabbinic court in Jerusalem after a judge realized it was a deceased lawyer reincarnated.

The Israeli newspaper Maariv was the first to carry the story that alleged that a stray dog wandered into a "Beth Din" financial court in the extremely Orthodox area of Meah Shearim, and refused to leave the courtroom. The piece stated that at this point a judge "decreed" that the dog was the reincarnation of a secular lawyer who has been deceased for 20 years. The report continued, stating that the judges then "ordered" the local children to stone the dog to death, which the children attempted to do before the dog managed to escape.

Every major news media outlet in the world ran this story which prompted extreme criticism, not only of the court and the alleged partakers in this horrific event, but of Israelis and Jews in general. It was all re-posted thousands of times on facebook and twitter, and was even the "most read" story on the BBC. This prompted thousands of comments, many of which stated the opinion that dogs are better than Jews.

Well, after all this uproar, we learn that this story is false and did not actually take place.

What in fact happened that day in the ultra-Orthodox courtroom was that a stray dog wandered in, (much to the delight of the children present), and the city dog catcher was called upon to remove the stray.

That's the big story.

Maariv has since run a retraction and apology, which most news outlets have not reported on, despite the mass amount of attention the initial false claim garnered. It is safe to say that a large percentage of the millions of people who read about this story are still under the impression that "Orthodox Jews stone reincarnated men disguised as stray dogs".

Maariv stated: "On 3rd June 2011 we published an item headlined 'Meah Shearim: A Bet Din (religious court) instructed that a dog be stoned.' In the article it was reported that a complaint was made to the police by the Israeli animal protection society against the Rabbinical Court for Monetary Matters in Jerusalem.The article also brought a categorical denial of this accusation from the head of the court, Rabbi Yehoshua Levin. According to him, workers from the municipal authority collected the dog from the court. The headline of the article did not reflect the full story and we apologize to the court and its members for the distress caused."

An official statement from the court said: "There is no basis for stoning dogs or any other animal in the Jewish religion, not since the days of the Temple or Abraham. The female dog found a seat in the corner of the court. And the children were delighted by it; there were hundreds outside the court. They are used to seeing stray cats but most have never seen a dog before. The only action we took was to dial the number of the Jerusalem Municipality to get the people in charge to take it away."

"There was no talk of reincarnation, a lawyer has never been mentioned, either now or 20 years ago, and there was no stoning. Such inventions are a kind of blood libel, and we wonder why the inventor of the story did not continue to describe how we collected the blood of the dog to make our matzah."

The blood libel refers to the anti-Semitic notion that claimed that Jews attacked Gentiles to use their blood to make bread during the Jewish feasts, a claim that has been a major cause of anti-Semitism throughout the ages.

One onlooker did state that when the dog refused to leave, a judge asked some kids to chase the dog away. The man confirmed that "they didn't issue an official ruling." The man claims that some of the kids outside were asked to throw something at the dog to make it go away. While this is not an animal-activist's dream, it is certainly not on the same level of the initial claim which portrayed the court members as demented, superstitious and vicious towards animals.

Reports indicate the dog is fine and has not been harmed.

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