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Burial worker circumcised body in northern Israel without consent of family

Chief investigative reporter for Zman Israel, The Times of Israel's sister Hebrew website

Illustrative: The Nahariya cemetery in 2019 (iStock)
Illustrative: The Nahariya cemetery in 2019 (iStock)

A burial worker in northern Israel circumcised the body of a recently deceased man ahead of the funeral, without the knowledge or consent of the family, according to a complaint filed with the Ministry of Religious Services.

Zman Yisrael, the Times of Israel’s Hebrew language sister site, reports that the incident allegedly occurred last week in the northern city of Nahariya and was done by a volunteer worker with no experience at the directive of the head of the local religious council.

The complaint was filed by a fellow worker at the cemetery, Avital Keren, who tells Zman Yisrael that this is a gross violation of norms at a Jewish funeral.

“Toward the end of the purification process, they discovered that the deceased was not circumcised — something that occasionally occurs with immigrants from the former Soviet Union,” Keren says.

Under normal circumstances, permission is requested from the family and, if granted, an experienced mohel is brought in to conduct a symbolic circumcision, Keren says, noting that if the family refuses there is no bar to conducting a traditional Jewish funeral.

“In this case, one of the volunteers called the acting manager and told him that the deceased was not circumcised. The manager, without thinking twice, told the volunteer, ‘Take a knife and circumcise him,'” he says.

“It is against all existing laws and a very serious act. It is a surgical procedure and it is absolutely forbidden to perform it without consent,” Keren says.

The daughter of the deceased told Zman Yisrael she was horrified by the report.

The head of the burial society denies the incident ever occurred.

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