Families of Be’eri massacre victims say religious officials delaying cremation

Relatives say Religious Services Ministry, led by a Haredi minister, is dithering on release of bodies

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

Israeli soldiers walk past houses destroyed by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be'eri, October 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli soldiers walk past houses destroyed by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be'eri, October 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Religious Services Ministry is delaying the release of bodies of victims of the massacre in Kibbutz Be’eri because their families want to cremate them, several of those families have alleged.

Three lawyers representing the families sent a letter Monday to Yehudah Avidan, the ministry’s director-general, complaining of the delay.

Cremation is widely seen as forbidden by Halacha, Orthodox Jewish law. The Religious Services Ministry is under the auspices of minister Michael Malkieli of Shas, a Haredi traditionalist party.

The deceased indicated that they wished to be cremated in signed wills and contracts with Aley Shalechet, an agency that handles cremation, the lawyers said in the letter, published by journalist Ben Caspit on X, with the names of Hamas’s victims redacted.

The lawyers said they would initiate legal action unless the bodies are released for cremation.

Several hundred bodies of victims from Hamas’s deadly October 7 incursion have been released for burial, including dozens of victims from Be’eri.

Shas MK Michael Malkieli arrives for coalition talks at a hotel in Jerusalem on November 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Hamas terrorists killed some 1,400 people in that raid, most of whom were civilians.

The Ministry of Religious Services did not immediately reply to a query by The Times of Israel on the families’ plea.

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