Israel’s burial societies refusing to bury gay people – TV report

In at least four instances, religious authorities suggest the dead be taken somewhere else or interred on outskirts of cemetery

Illustrative: A man walks through a cemetery in Jerusalem in this undated file photo. (Nati Shohat /Flash90)
Illustrative: A man walks through a cemetery in Jerusalem in this undated file photo. (Nati Shohat /Flash90)

An Israeli TV investigation has found several state-funded Jewish burial societies attempting to keep families of gay and lesbian people from burying their loved ones in certain cemeteries, drawing angry reaction from politicians, LGBT activists and some religious authorities.

Burial society officials in at least four cities told Channel 2 they should seek to bury a deceased gay person in another cemetery, or that the person would not be put in the same section as religious Jews.

“If you can bury him somewhere else, it’s preferable, to prevent aggravation,” a representative from the burial society in Netivot is recorded telling the channel. An official in Atlit also suggests burial in another city nearby.

In Rosh Ha’ayin, a representative says the burial will have to be done “quietly” in an area on the edge of the cemetery.

“We’re not going to bury someone who keeps Torah and [Jewish] commandments next to one like that,” he says in the recording.

In Kiryat Motzkin, a suburb of Haifa, the burial society representative told the channel that a gay couple could not reserve a joint plot like a regular married couple and would be buried separately “in the wall.”

“If you don’t have a wife according the (religious) law, you can’t use a family plot for a husband and wife. We go according to the halacha, sir, Jews.”

The report drew widespread condemnation. Channel 2 said MK Yael German of the Yesh Atid party is to convene an urgent meeting in the Knesset to address this issue.

“Israel has laws that ban this kind of discrimination, but we see they are simply not enforced,” said Oded Fried, the former head of Aguda – the Israeli National LGBT Task Force, who called on the Knesset to act so that we are all “treated equally.”

Some religious leaders also slated the move.

“If the details of this report are true and the burial societies or their representatives are refusing to bury people because of their sexual orientation during their lives, they are contravening Jewish law and desecrating the dead,” said Rabbi David Stav, the head of Tsohar, a group of Orthodox rabbis who aim to bridge the gaps between religious and secular Jews in Israel.

Stav, speaking to the website Srugim, noted that in no other way did the societies differentiate between those who were religiously observant or not.

אי שיוויון בחייהם ובמותם. חברות הקדישא ברחבי הארץ לא מוכנות לקבור זוגות הומוסקסואלים אחד לצד השני. לא להאמין. בעודי…

Posted by ‎Karine Elharrar- קארין אלהרר‎ on Thursday, January 12, 2017

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