Supreme Court upholds transgender activist’s cremation request

After her suicide, May Peleg’s ultra-Orthodox family loses appeal to bury her according to Jewish law

May Peleg, shown at the Jerusalem Open House, was an activist in Israel’s LBGT community. (Screenshot from Facebook/JTA)
May Peleg, shown at the Jerusalem Open House, was an activist in Israel’s LBGT community. (Screenshot from Facebook/JTA)

An Israeli transgender activist’s wish to be cremated will be honored despite efforts by her ultra-Orthodox family to bury the activist according to traditional Jewish law.

Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal filed by the family of May Peleg to stop her cremation, Haaretz reported.

“We must respect the will of the deceased over the will of the family as long as the deceased’s will is not against the law,” the court ruled.

The case was appealed to the Supreme Court after a district court ruled that Peleg should be cremated as per instructions in her will.

Cremation is forbidden according to Jewish law, but the practice has become increasingly popular among liberal and secular Jews in recent years, particularly in the United States.

Peleg, a 31-year-old transgender woman who had left the ultra-Orthodox community in which she was raised as a man, killed herself earlier this month. The day before her death, she filed a will with her attorney stipulating her desire to be cremated.

In appealing the cremation, Peleg’s mother claimed that her daughter was psychologically unstable and not competent to make the decision.

The family also said in its appeal that it suspected the will had been prepared by “proxies” and did not reflect Peleg’s true wishes, according to Haaretz.

Dozens of members of Israel’s LGBT community attended the Supreme Court session, along with Peleg’s mother and other family members. The attorney for her mother told the court that Peleg’s wish should be considered against the desire of the mother and Peleg’s two children to have a grave to visit.

Peleg was married and fathered the children before leaving the ultra-Orthodox community and transitioning from male to female.

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