Monday, July 23, 2007

PRACTICING MAGIC appears to be against the law in Israel:
Israel prosecutes that old black magic

By Dion Nissenbaum

McClatchy Newspapers

JAFFA, Israel — For nearly a quarter-century, Sana Kuma has been staring into the bottoms of coffee cups to divine the future for top Israeli models, actresses and businessmen.

It is in the chocolate swirls of coffee grounds that the fortuneteller says she can see what lies ahead.

Her fawning customers consider her a soothsayer.

To the Israeli government, Kuma is a witch and a fraud.

This year, Kuma became one of the few people ever to be charged in Israel with practicing magic, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

Kuma was the target of a modern-day witch hunt.

"Life is enemies and friends," Kuma said recently after a coffee-ground reading for a former Miss Israel. "I have to accept the good and the bad."

Kuma's transgression is something known to its practitioners as tasseography. Put more simply, it is the ancient art of overturning a coffee cup and looking for answers in the patterns left behind by the grounds.

And that, under Israeli law, can be grounds to charge someone with illegally practicing magic.

I think the headline is inaccurate. Tasseography (what a great word!) is divination, but it doesn't sound like black magic, which would have some malevolent element or intent.

In any case, it seems that Ms. Kuma was doing fine and had lots of happy customers, including a former Miss Israel, until one client decided he wasn't getting his money's worth.
In 2004, the Israeli police officer [Avraham Beihou] was looking for help on the eve of his marriage.

According to the government charges, Kuma looked into the coffee grounds and saw a cursed bride.

To remove the curse, Beihou agreed to pay Kuma about $1,000 for the help of a special "Jordanian sheik" brought in to deal with the problem.

When that was done, Beihou turned to Kuma for advice about his ailing father. Kuma told the police officer and his sister that their father was likely to die in two months if they didn't act quickly.

So Beihou paid another $2,200 for a series of amulets.

But Beihou's father didn't get better. So, earlier this year, he turned to the government, which filed fraud and magic charges against Kuma.

I'm curious about how the bride turned out.

In any case, the story continues:
In the end, the Israeli government decided that proving that Kuma was faking it was too difficult. Almog cut a deal. The state agreed to drop the charges, and Kuma agreed to give Beihou a full refund.

That might have been the end of it. But Beihou said that he's not satisfied.

"I mean to sue her in civil court," he said. "She's cheated a lot of people."
Stay tuned.