A family's request to lay to rest a resident of the northern city of Nahariya, who asked to be buried in the local cemetery's bereaved parents' section, was turned down by the city's religious authorities and chief rabbi because the deceased was not Jewish, Ynet has learned.
The man, Genadi Drobitsky, passed away last week. His son, Staff Sergeant Igor Drobitsky, was killed in a terror attack during in Hebron during the Second Intifada.
The family members were forced to wander between four cities before finally being able to bring their father to burial. His eldest son went from the Nahariya Municipality to the local council of Shlomi, the Akko cemetery and the Chevra Kadisha offices, in a humiliating journey which took a heavy mental toll on him.
According to Nahariya's Chief Rabbi Yeshayahu Meitlis, "Jews are buried in the Jewish cemetery of Nahariya. In the cemetery in (Kibbutz) Cabri they are building a new section for non-Jewish citizens.
"We can’t do anything about the fact that his son is buried there. The father cannot be buried there because he's not Jewish. Fallen IDF soldiers who are not Jewish and died in battle are buried in the military ground in the same cemetery. If the father were buried in Cabri, he wouldn't be buried next to his son in any case. It doesn't matter if he is buried in Cabri, Kfar Masaryk or Akko."
In memory of son. Eva and Genadi Drobitsky (L)
Drobitsky and his wife, Eva, arrived in Israel
in 1996 and settled in Nahariya. Before his death, Genadi asked to be buried in the bereaved parents' section in Nahariya, as close as possible to his son, Igor, a medic who was killed in November 2002 in a terror attack on the "worshippers' route" in Hebron. He was killed alongside 11 other soldiers in a battle with Islamic Jihad terrorists, including the commander of the IDF's Hebron Brigade, Colonel Dror Weinberg.
After his death, Igor's family received a citation on his behalf from the army.
Genadi died last week after battling cancer. In his final days his eldest son, Roman, was busy searching for a burial place for his father.
"The head nurse at the oncology ward told me I should start looking for a grave for my father, because they might cause trouble over the fact that he is not Jewish," says Roman. "We called the Nahariya Municipality, and the deputy mayor's assistant told us that we wouldn't be able to bury father next to Igor in the bereaved parents' section, because he's not Jewish according to the Halacha."
Genadi Drobitsky with his son Igor
The Municipality and Chevra Kadisha sent Roman to bury his father at the Sha'ar Menashe cemetery, near Hadera, some 80 kilometers (48 miles) from his Igor's grave.
The family preferred a closer place, and with the help of the Yad Lebanim association of the families of fallen soldiers and the Department of Families and Commemoration in the Ministry of Defense, they found a place in the Akko cemetery at half the price charged from people who are not residents of the city: NIS 12,500 ($3,500).
Igor Drobitsky. Killed in Hebron during Second Intifada
At the same time, however, the family learned that the father could be buried even closer to Nahariya – at the cemetery in the town of Shlomi.
The funeral was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, but around noon Roman received a phone call from a cemetery representative, who told him that Shlomi Council head Gabi Naaman refused to let Drobitsky be buried there because he was not a town resident.
Three hours before the planned funeral, the family members were forced to return to the Akko Municipality to coordinate a burial in the city cemetery. But their troubles didn't end there, as Roman was asked to pay up – in cash – before the start of the funeral. "But I didn't have all the money in cash, and there was no way I could raise the rest," he says.
Luckily, Nahariya Mayor Jackie Sabag was informed of the affair several minutes later and ordered the Municipality to cover the burial expenses.
"They eventually paid up, after showing insensitivity and foolishness, and after we have been running around for several days looking for a grave," says Roman.
The Nahariya Municipality released the following statement in response: "A permit for burial at the bereaved parents' section in the city's military cemetery is provided by the Defense Ministry's Department of Commemoration. The Municipality does not issue permits.
"In the old cemetery in Nahariya there is no room for a civil burial section, and the civil burial at the new cemetery has yet to be completed. The mayor, due to his strong appreciation for the son's bravery, helped to locate a grave in a place close to Nahariya. A burial place was found in Akko – the best solution under the circumstances. The burial expenses were covered by the Nahariya Municipality."
The Defense Ministry spokesperson said that the Jewishness of deceased bereaved parents was not examined thoroughly by the Ministry, and that the Chevra Kadisha organization and the local authority were responsible for that.
"The burial of deceased who are not soldiers is conducted in the authorities by Chevra Kadisha. All civil bereaved parents' sections are under the responsibility of Chevra Kadisha. The Defense Ministry's job in this case is to confirm to the local authority that the person is a bereaved parent and that his son is buried in the military ground in that city. The religious issue is irrelevant. We take care of all religions."