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Nov 12, 2020

Interesting Psak: burial of Jewish and non-Jewish soldiers in same cemetery

A policy decision was made recently that shocked and even upset many. 

Until recently, fallen IDF soldiers who were not Jewish were buried in separate cemeteries or sections of cemeteries, or with some clear division, than the Jewish soldiers they fought alongside. This was always based on halacha of not burying Jews and on-Jews together. This always upset some (they can fight together but can't be buried together? our son isnt good enough to be buried beside his friends and peers?), but it was the policy based on halacha.

The news recently reported that the Ministry of Defense in cooperation with the IDF Rabbinate have come up with a solution to allow Jewish and non-Jewish soldiers to be buried in the same sections near each other and without any noticeable distinction or separation. 

According to Kipa, until 2017, non-Jewish soldiers were buried in a separate section of the cemetery, or at least outside of the main section. Since 2017 they were buried in the same section but after a 2 meter gap from the last Jewish grave in the row, often with a bench or a tree placed in that gap.

The new policy is that the Jews and non-Jews can be buried in graves right next to each other, just like the way the rest of the graves are spaced, but the non-Jewish graves will be dug 20cm deeper than the Jewish graves. Inside the grave a mechitza of sorts, made of cinder blocks or some metal barrier will be placed around the body. Externally no difference between the Jewish graves and the non-Jewish graves will be visible, but in the grave itself the burial at different levels will mean they are not buried alongside each other, plus there will be a mechitza between them.

That was the report. I was not sure what to say about it. Good idea? bad idea? creative halacha? pushing the boundaries? I don't know. different families of fallen soldiers were in the news commenting, each in a different way, some supportive, some less so. 

A few rabbis, headed by Rav Dov Lior (formerly Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba) have now publicized official opposition to this decision by the IDF Rabbinate, as reported on Srugim. Rav Lior says that this psak of the IDF Rabbinate hurts not just the Jewish soldiers being buried next to non-Jews, but it also damages the status of the Rabbinate and the character of the IDF as the army of the Jewish people. 

Rav Sariel Rosenberg (head of the beis din of Rav Nissim Karelitz), Rav Yehuda Silman (Av Beis DIn of the beis din of Rav Karelitz), and Rav Yitzchak Zilbershtein (rav of Ramat Elchnonon) have also publicized an opinion in opposition to the new policy saying it is prohibited. . 

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  1. One chilul H' after the other!

  2. I humbly suggest that poskim who are opposed to their communities serving, period, should have the modesty not to offer an opinion here.

    That of course doesn't apply to R' Lior.


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