The body of an Israeli transgender activist will be cremated as she requested in her will, despite objections by her ultra-Orthodox family.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled Wednesday that the body of May Peleg will be cremated, the Hebrew-language news website Walla reported. Peleg’s will requests not only that she be cremated, but that a ceremony be held and her ashes scattered at sea and under a tree to be planted in her memory.
May Peleg, a 31-year-old who served as head of the executive committee of Jerusalem’s Open House LGBT community center, committed suicide over the weekend. She had long been estranged from her family.
Peleg’s mother, who in her affidavit described Peleg as her “son,” had requested an injunction to stop the cremation and that she “be given the body for burial according to Jewish law.” She argued that Peleg’s will “should be disqualified since my son was undergoing a deep mental crisis and was not capable of drawing up a will.”
The legal battle has highlighted the uneasy relationship between Israel’s commitment to gay rights, rare in the Middle East, and its ultra-Orthodox Jews, who abide by a strict religious lifestyle.
Cremation is forbidden according to Jewish law, although it is has become increasingly popular among liberal and secular Jews in recent years, particularly in the United States.
Peleg wrote in an affidavit prior to her death, submitted to the court: “There are reasonable grounds for concern that if my body reaches my biological mother’s hands she will subject me to a religious burial, with Judaism not recognizing me as a woman, even though I’ve undergone sex change surgery. This constitutes a lack of respect and an erasure of my identity.”
Peleg married at age 20 and had two children before divorcing and undergoing a sex-change operation. The mother said Peleg’s ex-wife also wished to block the cremation.
While Peleg and her ex-wife initially maintained good relations, two years ago the ex-wife stopped letting Peleg have a relationship with the children, who are now 9 and 10 years old.
AFP contributed to this report.