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Body of 80-year-old woman found in airport luggage

Family tracked down in Russia after sending relative, deceased for 11 days, to Israel in cardboard box; she wanted to be buried here

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

illustrative: Passengers have their hand luggage screened by security personnel at Ben-Gurion Airport, file photo (Ariel Schalit/AP)
illustrative: Passengers have their hand luggage screened by security personnel at Ben-Gurion Airport, file photo (Ariel Schalit/AP)

The body of an 80-year-old woman who had been dead for 11 days was found in baggage at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday morning, the Foreign Ministry said.

The woman’s remains had arrived in Israel from Moscow in a cardboard box, wrapped in plastic, with no accompanying documentation.

Representatives of ZAKA, a rescue service, retrieved the body and located the woman’s relatives within a few hours.

The family said the woman, who was named as 80-year-old Esti Zizuva, had asked in her will to be buried in Israel. After she died, her relatives proceeded to ship her here without coordinating with Israeli authorities.

“This a family in which the mother died 11 days ago, and they innocently decided to send her for burial in Israel,” the ZAKA spokesman said, according to Channel 2. “Since they didn’t know the procedures, they decided to send her as baggage.”

Once the paperwork is completed, Zizuva will be buried in Ashdod.

The ZAKA spokesman said it was not unheard of for Jews to ship their relatives to Israel for burial. Two years ago, a man who thought the formal process was too expensive bought a regular plane ticket and sent his dead mother to Israel in a suitcase, he said.

“In the past, body parts were even sent by mail for burial,” ZAKA founder Yehuda Meshi Zahav said. “In most cases the families are innocent and just want to transfer [the bodies] to Israel for burial.”

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