Reproduction photo: George Ginsberg
Menachem Ben-Zaccaria
Reproduction photo: George Ginsberg
Crash site
Photo: Ido Erez

Chevra Kadisha: Crash victim won't be buried in coffin

Family of Friday's plane crash victim at odds with Israeli burial society which refuses to allow burial in coffin, saying it's against Jewish law, suggests using a doll instead of corpse

Conflict arose Sunday over the burial of one of Friday's light plane crash victims as his family requested to lay him to rest in a coffin, while Chevra Kadisha, the Israeli burial society, refused and demanded he be buried in a shroud.


The family of Menachem Ben-Zaccaria of Netanya, who was killed in the crash along with three others, was told that using a coffin was against Halacha (Jewish law) and would be impossible.


"They told us it was against Halacha and that instead of this they would work it out – and use a doll," the deceased's sister Havi told Ynet on Sunday.


"As if the pain we are going through is not enough, they are torturing us and driving us crazy. Instead of preparing for the shiva (seven days of mourning), we have to deal with this and fight to have Meni (Menachem) buried with dignity. The State of Israel should be ashamed to have such burial services."


Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Netanya Mayor Miriam Feierberg have both been working to reach a solution to the family's problem.


The bodies of the four victims of the crash were found in poor condition. Chevra Kadisha explained to the family that, according to Halacha, it's not customary to bury remains in a coffin.


"A rabbi sits before us, stretching on his chair and promises us that they will take care of it and it will be ok," said Havi. "I asked him, 'And what about my mother, who doesn't know all the details, and would want to hug my brother?' He answered me, 'That's your problem.'"


The deceased's sister said that after asking around, it became apparent that Chevra Kadisha planned to bury the body along with a doll.


"I will not let such a terrible thing happen. My brother will get the respect he deserves and even if they refuse to bury him in a coffin, we will bring him home in a coffin, place him at home, and sit there. We have been on our feet since the morning dealing only with this. They are just torturing us."


'A monopoly that lives at our expense'

Netanya's chief rabbi said that an official Chevra Kadisha representative inspected the body, and that it was intact, therefore there was no need for a coffin.


Havi criticized Chevra Kadisha's conduct, saying, "It's a shame on the State of Israel that they behave this way. Because they are a monopoly that lives at our expense, they allow themselves to do whatever they want. Unfortunately, this is our State of Israel."


David Levin of Netanya's Chevra Kadisha said in response, "The family came to Chevra Kadisha with the demand, not a request, to bury (the body) in a coffin. We refused. We operate according to the Halacha and according to the Halacha we do not bury (bodies) in a coffin.


"We also consulted with the Netanya's chief rabbi, who approved our decision and agreed that we should operate according to the Halacha. To our understanding, there is a body, and even if it is not intact – it can be wrapped in more shrouds and the burial can be carried out in a dignified manner."


"We tried to meet the family halfway, and asked to sit with the family to find a solution together, and to explain our capabilities to them. We are not against the family, but for them.


"We have been clear on this matter, because we are a public organization and we can't have everyone asking for what they want. We would be happy to meet with the family in good spirits, and offer them solutions."


Edva Naftali contributed to this article


פרסום ראשון: 10.26.08, 14:16
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