Photo: Jeremy Feldman
Batya (pseudonym) will not forget the day her father was buried at the Migdal Haemek cemetery. Not only was she forced to deal with a great loss, she was also humiliated at the graveyard when she was prevented from lamenting her father over this grave.
The father was laid to rest at the northern city's municipal cemetery. In addition to family members and acquaintances, the funeral was also attended by rabbis, the mayor and chairman of the city's religious council, Rabbi Yaakov Amar.
Before the funeral procession began, Batya asked to deliver an oration in her father's memory.
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"I wrote my father things that sting one's flesh. There are things you don’t say during your life, but you want them heard when bidding farewell," she says.
She went on the stage and said she would like to lament her father, but Rabbi Amar suddenly asked her to get off the podium.
"I was surprised. I looked at him and said, 'What do you mean? I want to say a few words to my father.' But he insisted," she says. "The mayor and other people tried to talk to him, and he replied, 'You are a woman, you mustn't say a word.'
"I tried to grab the microphone back, but he blocked me with his body. I felt I had to fight to say goodbye to my father. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me."
Other family members tried to convince the rabbi, but to no avail. "He acted like a dictator, arguing that she was desecrating the dead and that according to the Halacha (Jewish law) a woman is not allowed to deliver orations," Batya's cousin says.
"Where is that written? What, do we live in Iran? This is a stain on this city's reputation," he says.
Batya eventually got off the stage in tears, but that was not the end of it. "I asked to march next to my father, to touch him, for the last time. But the rabbis around him, led by Rabbi Amar, told me, 'Go backwards. The men walk first and then the women."
'It leads to an epidemic'After the hum, Batya placed the written eulogy inside the grave, but she cannot rid herself of the pain she is feeling.
"What did I ask for? All I wanted was to say goodbye to my father. I still find it hard to believe that I was forced to deal with such humiliation at my most difficult moments. It was the most painful moment for me in the midst of all this grief I am experiencing now."
Rabbi Amar confirmed the report, saying that "wise men, headed by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, said that grave and serious things happen when women go up to deliver an oration in front of men during a funeral.
"The wise men warn that this causes, God forbid, an epidemic among the people of Israel and that Satan dances in the cemetery while women attend funerals.
"I told her that if she wished to bring some comfort to her father's soul, she should give up the idea of talking in front of a crowd during the lamentation and say a few words of goodbye to him near the burial place, although it would have been best if she had not said a word.
"Her family members understood the idea and her siblings asked her not to do it. And in the funeral itself, according to the Halacha, men walk first and only when they're done the women go up to the grave.
"All we are seeking is the benefit of the people of Israel, and it's a shame that it's interpreted this way," the rabbi concluded.