Haim Shapiro writes for the Jerusalem Post.
Chief Rabbi Lau Assures Burial of Three Bombing Victims
By Haim Shapiro and Allyn Fisher-Ilan
Reprinted with permission of The Jerusalem Post . Visit www.jpost.com .
JERUSALEM (June 3) - Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau assured Education Minister Limor Livnat last night that three victims of the Tel Aviv suicide bombing Friday night whose mothers aren't Jewish would be buried in the city's main cemetery, a ministry spokeswoman said.
Livnat called Lau after questions appeared to have been raised as to whether they could be interred in a Jewish burial yard.
Since the tragedy occurred on Friday night when the Orthodox members of the Tel Aviv Burial Society do not work or answer the telephone, there was apparently no direct contact with them, However, MK [Member of Knesset, the Parliament of Israel] Roman Bronfman said that the message that the Hevra Kadisha would not bury the victims whose mothers were not Jewish was conveyed by the hospitals to which the victims were taken following the bombing.
MK Sofa Landver, who is also the head of the Association of Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union said that social workers told there would be a problem with the burials when she went to the Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, where the bodies of the victims had been taken and where the families were gathered to identify them.
Livnat intervened to settle the issue late last night, amid criticism that the controversy was inhumane to the victims' families. She telephoned Lau after Shabbat. He told her "they will all be buried properly in the Tel Aviv cemetery," Livnat's aide, Ayala Bar said.
Beforehand, Landver said she had called Kibbutz Givat Brenner, whom she described as "very humane people," who not only agreed to bury the victims without compensation, but also asked what else they could do.
Then Kibbutz Shefayim said it would host the burials for nothing.
The Reform movement said last night that it was volunteering the services of its rabbis to conduct the funerals at Kibbutz Einat.
Meanwhile, the burial society and the religious establishment came under a host of attacks. Shinui leader Yosef Lapid slammed the Hevra Kadisha for what he said was their collaboration with the Islamic Jihad in the attack on the youngsters.
"The Islamic Jihad is attacking live youths and the Hevra Kadisha dead youths by refusing to bury three of them on the grounds they are not kosher for a Jewish burial," he said.
MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor-Meimad), chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, said the time has come to eliminate the burial monopoly of the Hevra Kadisha.
"It is not imaginable that a group of people have a monopoly over a painful realm such as burial and do as they like without showing the necessary sensitivity," he said.
Pines-Paz said he would advance legislation to reform burial practices, adding that the Hevra Kadisha is detached from the realities of Israeli society.
Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg said that in Judaism there are halachic and humanitarian solutions that allow for expressing solidarity in both life and death.
Lau issued a scathing response, noting that the criticism had come before the burial society even considered the matter since, during Shabbat, no one had spoken to its officials. Lau said he had instructed Rabbi Ya'acov Ruja of Bat Yam, head of the burial society, to bury the three in the Yarkon Cemetery.
Asked if this meant that the three would be buried outside the regular burial ground, Lau said that without going into details, there were ways to bury the victims honorably.
"Of course the families will have to decide where they want their children buried," Lau added.