Pig-Human Organ Transplants and Jewish Law

As gene-editing technologies continue to improve, the field of cross-species organ transplants, or xenotransplantation, continues to grow. Shlomo Brody examines the approach of Jewish law toward the use of such technologies, particularly regarding the permissibility of implanting pig organs in humans.

Last month, doctors in Maryland completed the world’s first heart transplant using a heart that came from a genetically modified pig. This was a breakthrough because the donor pig had undergone gene editing to remove a specific type of sugar from its cells thought to be responsible for previous organ rejections in patients.

Pigs have been utilized [in such experiments] for a number of reasons: they are easy to breed and maintain (albeit with some environmental costs); they are available in wide numbers; they can be bred under pathogen-free conditions; and, most importantly, they are similar in anatomy and physiology to humans.

In the Bible, the pig is singled out because it has split hooves but does not chew its cud, thereby disqualifying it from being kosher food. “And the swine—although it has true hoofs, with the hoofs cleft through, it does not chew the cud: it is impure for you. You shall not eat of their flesh or touch their carcasses; they are impure for you” (Leviticus 11:7-8). Beyond the prohibition of eating pork, the sages also decreed that it is prohibited to raise pigs in Israel or around the world. Yet despite the prohibition of consuming pork as well as the general taboo around pigs, there was never a ritual prohibition against gaining benefit from pigs.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Halakhah, Kashrut, Medicine

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf