After Oct. 7 victim buried outside cemetery, fence separating non-Jews lowered

Move follows outcry by media and lawmakers over the Beit She’an burial of an immigrant from Russia whose father is Jewish but whose mother isn’t

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

A fence in the area of the Beit She'an New Cemetery where non-Jews and people who died by suicide are buried. (Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Lesri)
A fence in the area of the Beit She'an New Cemetery where non-Jews and people who died by suicide are buried. (Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Lesri)

Following an uproar over a non-Jewish victim of Hamas’s October 7 massacre being buried in a separate part of the Beit She’an cemetery, a fence that cordons off her grave and those of other non-Jews will be lowered, the city’s religious council said Thursday.

Criticism began Monday over the October 30 burial of Alina Plahti at a separate compound of the city’s New Cemetery. The compound is mostly for non-Jews and for Jews who died by suicide, two categories of people who are not generally buried inside Jewish cemeteries, in accordance with the Chief Rabbinate’s Orthodox interpretation of halachah, of Jewish religious law.

“Following the outcry, I thought a humane and fair solution needs to be found, which would not compromise halachah but address the family’s pain,” Avi Pahima, the head of the Religious Council of Beit She’an, which is a municipal authority responsible for providing religious services to Jews, told The Times of Israel.

Vegetation will cover the lowered divide to make it less obtrusive, Pahima added.

Plahti was 23 when Hamas terrorists murdered her at the Nova music festival near the border with Gaza. On October 7, some 3,000 Hamas terrorists crossed into Israel and murdered some 1,200 people, abducting about 240 more. Israel is engaged in a massive military operation to topple the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

The lowering of the fence “is an important step. It will make me feel better to know that Alina is close to everyone else and not separated behind a tall fence,” Olga Plahti told Ynet. Olga Plahti is not Jewish but her husband Roman, Alina’s father, is. Alina’s older brother Ilya converted to Judaism several years ago. The family immigrated in 2001 from Russia.

Alina Plahti (Courtesy)

Plahti had pursued an Orthodox conversion to Judaism during her military service but apparently dropped out of it about three years before she was murdered.

At a meeting Monday meeting of the Knesset’s Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, its chair, MK Oded Forer, was among several lawmakers who apologized for and condemned the way Plahti was buried.

Halachic rulers and interpreters have issued different edicts on the mixed burial of Jews and non-Jews, ranging from a blanket rejection of the prospect to permission to do it if it helps preserve peaceful relations.

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