Not True: Jewish Court Sentences Dog to Death by Stoning

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The, June 20, 2011, unequivocally states that “no dog stoned to death in Jerusalem.”

This bogus story was first reported by an Israeli newspaper, Maariv. The story then went viral and made headlines around the world, and was the “Most Read” story on the BBC – despite a correction and apology being printed in Maariv.

A statement from the Jerusalem 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.”

This is one of those WTF news.

A Jewish rabbinical court in Israel recently condemned a dog to death by stoning. The court believes the dog to be the reincarnation of a secular lawyer who had insulted the court’s judges 20 years ago.

Happily, before the sentence could be carried out, the dog escaped.

Agence France Presse reports from Jerusalem on June 17, 2011 that the large dog made its way into the Monetary Affairs Court in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, frightening judges and plaintiffs.

Despite attempts to drive the dog out of the court, the hound refused to leave the premises. So one of the sitting judges recalled a curse the court had passed down upon a secular lawyer who had insulted the judges 20 years ago. At that time, the judges asked that divine retribution be visited on the lawyer by having his spirit be moved into the body of a dog, an animal considered impure by traditional Judaism.

Certain schools of thought within Judaism believe in the transmigration of souls, or reincarnation.

Convinced that the large dog is the reincarnation of the offensive lawyer, one of the rabbinical court judges sentenced the animal to death by stoning by local children. But the dog managed to escape.

When an animal-welfare organisation filed a complaint with the police against the head of the court, Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin, the rabbi denied that the judges had called for the dog’s stoning. One of the court’s managers, however, confirmed the report of the lapidation sentence to Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot: “It was ordered… as an appropriate way to ‘get back at’ the spirit which entered the poor dog.”

Mea Shearim


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9 responses to “Not True: Jewish Court Sentences Dog to Death by Stoning

  1. I am currently illustrating a children’s book about Passover, a picture book for very young children for a publisher in Crown Heights, NY that prints children’s books for the Hasidic Community. It is amazing having to draw no male next to a female, men on one side of the table, women on the other, always separated by children. The women, even the female children do not show bare arms, elbows, legs etc….there are so many rules to keep in mind when drawing everything. In discussions with the editor I am learning that this extreme modesty isn’t so much that the men need to be prevented from temptation but also that they believe that women should be treated like jewels for their grace and devotion to family and God and not as sexual objects.
    It’s so hard to imagine in our society but men in that society , other than their wives, are basically not meant to think about women at all. My editor’s daughter was just married at the age of 18 to the young man she had been betrothed to at the age of 12!
    What really amazes me is how happy these people are, it’s such a different world.

    As far as the Jewish belief in transmigration of souls it has a lot more to do with old Eastern European/Russian Hasidic thought and the Kaballah, see:

    also in Part Two in the above URL are some stories about souls being reincarnated into dogs.
    I was going to add a “family dog” to the book I am illustrating but was asked not to…..also, since the Nazis used dogs against the Jews, this has only increased the animosity of Ultra Religious Jews towards dogs.
    Modern Jews certainly do not believe in reincarnation, or the transmigration of souls but Hasidism is a very mystical, magical form of Judaism.
    My grandparents were not Hasidic, but Orthodox and my father grew up believing that after death the bones of all Jews rolled to Israel.

  2. Religious Jewry believe the Messiah will come. If HE happened to inhabit the body of that dog, the Rabbi who sentenced the dog to stoning, would never know.

    To order that children stone the dog is ghastly, coming from the teach, the rabbi. Fundamentalist religious beliefs are often throwbacks to the days of darkness and unenlightenment of the mind and the intellect.

  3. “But the dog managed to escape.”

    I’ll bet it had help from someone who actually grew a brain and relocated it to someplace safe.


  4. ok, boys & girls, this story seemed to weird…..I kept thinking about it while I walked Baci the Corgi, came home and did a little research…
    turns out it’s not true, sort of like the game of telephone.

    A pooch made its way into a beth din in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim . One of the judges, believing the dog to be the reincarnation of a now-deceased lawyer whom the court had cursed some two decades earlier, sentenced the dog to death by stoning, and ordered that the sentence be carried out by children. The dog escaped before the sentence could be carried out. Dog-lovers have filed a complaint against the court.

    This story has it all. Religious zealots! Animal rights activists! Blood libel! Children! Ingredients that tend to nourish the more primitive regions of our minds and starve the rest. Best of all, it runs under 200 words and stars a dog.

    The story’s only deficiency is that it comes up short in the being-factually-true department.

    While we dog lovers may not appreciate an old Rabbi asking a child to throw a stone to scare a dog away, it appears that the story got a bit blown out of believability.

    • Artist,

      The site you gave doesn’t actually give the proof of the falsity of the story. As a Catholic, I can do without the writer’s last sentence: “”But assuming the story is true—and to assume makes an ass out of you and me—the dog probably escaped to the Vatican where it’s currently undergoing an exorcism.” The gratuitous reference to the Vatican is esp. offensive given the fact that the story about the dog was first reported by an Israeli newspaper, Maariv. Christians have nothing to do with what the Jerusalem court now hysterically calls a “blood libel.” If anyone is doing any libeling, it’s the Israeli newspaper, which has made a correction and retraction.

      I found a better, more credible article on The, and I’m updating this post with that, as well as amending the title of this post to “Not True: Jewish Court Sentences Dog to Death by Stoning.”.

  5. Eowyn,
    sorry about that last comment… is exactly an example of how we all see through a particular lens…….I didn’t even see that.
    What i did feel, that got me searching in the first place was the source as the french paper which has a highly AntiSemitic slant in general so they would naturally jump on a story like that, true or not.

    • I should thank you, Artist.

      It was only because you listened to your inner nagging doubts that you then discovered the skeptical article you linked us to, which then led me to look for some more. Your skepticism led us to the truth!

      I’m still aghast that it was an Israeli newspaper, Maariv, that first reported the bogus news. But then, I understand the division/disputes between the Ultra-Orthodox vs. secular within Israel are bitter.

  6. Jewish dog wags international media’s tail
    Why were news outlets around the world and local antosemites, so quick to report on a story about a religious Jewish court’s apparently ludicrous ruling, when the original source had already issued a retraction?
    Haaretz News
    In the age of instant news and the spreading like wildfire of information – true or false – via the Twittersphere, there are genuine questions which need answering about the future of accurate news reporting.

    The recent story about the alleged sentencing to death of an Israeli canine inhabited by the spirit of a hateful secular lawyer reminds us that verification of facts can still play second fiddle to getting a juicy story out quickly. Worse, the response from media outlets following a debunking raises similarly serious issues as the original publication of the skewed report.

    On 3 June, Maariv published, ‘Mea Shearim: Beth din ordered stoning of a female dog’ which told of how a dog had entered a religious court room during proceedings and refused to leave. I must admit to not having read the original article as the content has since been removed from the newspaper’s website (the headline remains). However, according to reports, it claimed that one of the sitting judges announced that the dog was inhabited by the spirit of a secular Jewish lawyer who had insulted the court twenty years prior and called for it to be killed.

    What followed is somewhat confusing. The religious court issued a lengthy and unequivocal denial that any such order was given, counter-claiming that, “The only thing that happened… was that the judges called 106- the Jerusalem Municipal dispatch in charge of stray dogs – requesting that the dog be picked up from Beth Din. Until that happened, the dog sat down in the corner- peaceful, calm and unharmed. That story can be verified with the municipal dispatch.” The statement also rebuked the media for apparently misrepresenting the facts.

    Whatever the case, on 15 June, Maariv saw fit to publish a clarification in which it admitted that its headline claiming that the court had ordered the dog’s death “did not reflect the full story and we apologize to the court and its members for the distress caused.”

    But the media horse had bolted: rabbis handing down death sentences to dogs, and in Israel – this was too good to miss out on, surely. Global news agency AFP produced, “Jewish court sentences dog to death by stoning” on Friday (two days after the retraction); the BBC went with, “Jerusalem rabbis ‘condemn dog to death by stoning’’ on Saturday; and Time published ‘Shocking Sentence: Jewish Court Condemns Dog To Death by Stoning’ on the same day. The latter piece received over 2,000 Facebook likes and was retweeted more than 800 times. According to Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, the BBC story even featured as “Most Read” on the website for a time.

    The fact that all these stories were released after Maariv acknowledged that their claim that the court ordered the death of the dog was unjustified is seriously worrying. It indicates that journalists did not contact the source of the story but simply relied on second hand reporting, in this case, from Israel’s English-language Ynet website, which also published its story subsequent to Maariv’s retraction.

    Presumably as a result of numerous bloggers flagging the retraction, a number of publications which released the seemingly false story have engaged in some level of manoeuvring, generally not involving acknowledgment of any wrongdoing on their parts. The BBC has published, “Jerusalem court denies dog condemned to stoning” which notes that “The source of the report, Israel’s Maariv newspaper, apologised for its headline and for any offence caused.” As though the retraction had only just occurred and was hence responsible for the BBC’s initial sloppiness.

    The Daily Telegraph website, which carried the AFP article over the weekend, removed its original article and posted, “Israel dog stoning reports strongly denied” which also insinuated that Maariv was entirely to blame.

    Perhaps a more fitting response would have been to acknowledge the timeline in their follow-up coverage, thus accepting some responsibility for the fact that they too had fallen foul of basic journalistic standards in not checking the facts with the source.

  7. Regarding the gulf between the Haredi, Hasidic Jews in Mea Shearim and more secular, less ultra Orthodox Jews in Israel…the gulf is vast.
    Many of the sects in Mea Shearim are anti Zionist, actually believing that there should not be a Jewish Homeland until after the arrival of the Messiah…believing that Israel’s woes are brought upon herself by the very inception of the State of Israel:

    In VaYoe,l Moshe Teitelbaum ( Satmar Rebbe ) explicitly declared that, from the time of the very inception of the Zionist movement in the 1890s, the Zionists violated the three oaths, and thereby caused the Holocaust, as well as all wars, terrorism, and violence in modern Israel, and most anti-Semitism around the world since that time, as a result:

    “…it has been these Zionist groups that have attracted the Jewish people and have violated the Oath against establishing a Jewish entity before the arrival of the Messiah. It is because of the Zionists that six million Jews were killed.”

    A lot of Israel’s more moderate Jews consider those in Mea Shearim cultish and fundamentalist zealots so Maariv pushing that story isn’t really surprising.
    Then, with the rampant general atmosphere of Anti-Semitism globally and here in the US even amongst Jews…( shockingly 25% of American Jews support the Gaza Flotilla ) the world was ready and willing to push the story.

    The whole thing is a mess, it makes me really sad.


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