*Update: Note that the original source of this article has offered a retraction and an apology. See below.
As one of the most discussed news stories on Yahoo and the BBC over the weekend, this article prompted a number of angry comments from readers. Now the source of the article has issued a retraction.
Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv published the following in its June 15 edition:
“On the 3rd of June 2011 we published a story titled “Mea Shearim: Rabbinnical court orders the stoning of a dog”. The story reported a police complaint filed by the Association for Animal Rights (Tza’ar Ba’alei Chaim) against the Jerusalem Rabbinnical Court for Financial Affairs. The story also featured the total denial of the Chief Justice of the court, Yehoshua Levin, of the complaint. The Rabbi said, among other things: “There is no basis for the abuse of an animal, neither from the Halacha nor by common sense”. According to him, employees of the municipality have collected the dog from the court. The title of the story didn’t fully present the entire story, and we apologize for the anguish caused to the court and its members.”[divider]
The Behadrei Hadarim website reports that a large dog wandered into the Monetary Affairs Court near the Orthodox community of Mea Shearim several weeks ago. People tried to shoo the dog and became fearful when it refused to leave.
One of the judges then recounted the tale of a famous secular lawyer who insulted the court some twenty years ago. The lawyer was cursed by a panel of judges, who wished for his spirit to transfer to the body of a dog because they are considered impure by Halacha. Several years ago the lawyer passed away.
Convinced that the dog was the insulting attorney reincarnated, one of the court’s judges sentenced the animal to death by stoning, asking local children to carry out the order. Before they could do so the dog bolted, escaping the court and a violent death.
Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin, head of the court, publicly denies that a judge ordered the dog’s stoning, but a conflicting statement from one of the court’s managers confirmed it.
“It was ordered by the rabbis because of the grief he had caused the court,” he said. “They didn’t issue an official ruling, but ordered the children outside to throw stones at him in order to drive him away. They didn’t think of it as cruelty to animals, but as an appropriate way to ‘get back at’ the spirit which entered the poor dog.”
An organization called Let the Animals Live has filed a formal complaint with police, and social activist and Jerusalem City Council Member Rachel Azaria urged the attorney general to address the court, suggesting that they “deal with the criminals” and leave the animal alone.