Menachem Mendel

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Laws Against Witchcraft in Israel

While listening to an episode of the always interesting podcast the Tel Aviv Review that addressed neo-paganism in Israel, I found out that performing witchcraft for benefit is against the law in Israel. The interviewee, Shai Feraro, pointed out that in the Israeli Penal Code par. 417 it is written (Hebrew):

Witchcraft
417. (a) If a person pretends to perform witchcraft with intent to obtain anything, then he is liable to two years imprisonment; if he obtained anything for or on the strength of the witchcraft, then he is liable to three years imprisonment; for purposes of this section, “witchcraft” includes magic and fortune telling.
(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to magic or fortune telling, which does not exceed the scope of amusement or entertainment, that amusement or entertainment being provided free of charge or for a consideration that is only of the price of admission to the place where it is held.

417. (א) המתחזה לעשות מעשה כישוף בכוונה לקבל דבר, דינו – מאסר שנתיים; קיבל דבר בעד מעשה הכישוף או על פיו, דינו – מאסר שלוש שנים; לענין סעיף ×–×”, “כישוף” – לרבות מעשה קוסם והגדת עתידות.
(ב) הוראות סעיף קטן (א) לא יחולו על מעשה קוסם או הגדת עתידות שאינם חורגים מגדר שעשוע או בידור, והשעשוע או הבידור ניתנים ללא תמורה, או שתמורתם היא מחיר הכניסה בלבד למקום עריכתם.

Over the years there have been a number of cases from Israeli secular and rabbinic courts in which witchcraft has been an issue.

See this report from the July 17, 1958 edition of Herut.

Kishufherut1
Kishufherut2
This is from the June 10, 1964 edition of Davar.

Davarkishuf

Laws related to witchcraft have a long history, and the Israeli law has its roots in British Mandatory Law. These laws raise many issues related to gender, patriarchy, etc. One only has to read these news reports and see the similarity between what these women were accused of and what today is done by many male rabbis for money to see the problems. On the latter see my post on Israel’s wealthiest rabbis. Witches and witchraft have a long history with Jews and Judaism, just watch yourself if you plan to practice it in Israel.

Update: I did a little more digging and found a few cases of men who have been charged with witchcraft related offenses, although they usually seem to be for fraud. People complained to the police that the “spell” didn’t work and people were charged with fraud. See this article from Davar, June, 9, 1970.

kishuf3

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