Religion: Japanese Jew

Rabbis and Israeli government officials crowded around the open doorway as an elderly man was wheeled into the second-floor operating room of Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox Shaare Zedek Hospital, where Mosaic law is observed so strictly that nurses are forbidden to write on patients' charts on the Sabbath. The sheet-draped patient: Abram Setsuzau Kotsuji, 60, a descendant of Shinto priests. The surgery: circumcision, as part of his conversion to Judaism. As the mohel (circumciser) lifted the knife, he repeated the ancient formula: "Blessed be the Lord our God who has sanctified us and commanded us to circumcise the convert."

After a rigorous examination in...

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