Rabbis ask Defense Ministry to honor headstone preference for Haredi fallen soldier

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

Cpt. Israel Yudkin (Courtesy)
Cpt. Israel Yudkin (Courtesy)

Orthodox rabbis ask the defense ministry and the army to permit parents whose son fell in combat to add the acronym Heh-Yud-Dalet to his gravestone for the expression “HaShem Yikom Damo” or “May God avenge his blood.”

The letter by the Tzohar rabbinical group follows the Defense Ministry’s refusal to include the letters on the the gravestone of Cpt. Israel Yudkin, a deputy company commander in the Haredi Netzach Yehuda battalion, who fell in battle in Gaza on May 22. His family is asking the ministry to add the letters denoting the formulation, which is standard in some sectors of Judaism for people who were killed in connection with their faith.

The reason given to the family is formalistic, namely that the acronym is outside protocol for military headstones, whose format is generally uniform with only a handful of permissible deviations. The burial plot of Yudkin is currently absent a headstone, while talks between the ministry and the parents continue.

In light of the family’s “sacrifice, we would ask that the decision be granted to forego the need for uniformity in favor of the family’s interests,” reads the letter by Tzohar to Défense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief-of-Staff Herzi Halevi.

The issue comes during a time of polarizing debate in Israeli society on military service by Haredi men, many of whom are exempt from the draft if they attend yeshiva. Activists and politicians pushing for an end to the exemption argue that it is discriminatory, as the High Court of Justice has ruled repeatedly, including in 2017.

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