During Tuesday`s meeting of the State Control Committee regarding the State Comptroller`s report on civil burial in Israel, committee chairwoman MK Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid) said ”in 1996 the Knesset enacted a law for alternative, civil burial, but unfortunately, 20 years later, this issue remains very problematic, and there are people who are forced to bury their loved ones far from their homes or have to pay a lot of money for the burial. The State of Israel has neglected the civil burial issue for years and is shirking its responsibility regarding the burial of thousands of citizens.”
”This reality forces many people to fight, during the most difficult time of their lives, against closed doors and difficult bureaucracy,” she said. ”It is my duty to make certain that the basic right of a dignified farewell from loved ones will exist in every home in Israel. Religion influences many things in our country, but, particularly on this issue, there should be a consensus – that everybody should be buried as they see fit. This is their last request, and we should respect it.”
MK Yoel Razvozov (Yesh Atid) noted that close to 500,000 Israeli citizens immigrated to the country by virtue of the Law of Return, ”and despite the fact that they are of the seed of Israel, and sometimes lead a Jewish life, and have Jewish surnames, they are discriminated against by the religious bodies in the country. These are citizens who carry out national duties, serve in the army, pay taxes and shoulder the burden. And yet, the Chief Rabbinate and religious councils treat them as second class citizens.”
”Caring for the immigrant public is a moral obligation,” Razvozov continued. ”As citizens of the state, they should have all of the rights. We must create a suitable option for all those who want or must have a civil alternative with regards to the issue of burial and in general. Such cases are precisely why during the previous Knesset I promoted legislation aimed at regulating civil burial in Israel, and I continue to promote it in this Knesset.
Liora Shimoni of the State Comptroller`s Office said the state has recognized civil burial, ”but recognition is not enough. While the option exists, it is unattainable, because there are not enough civil cemeteries, and also because there are private civilian cemeteries that make commercial use of the property. The two key segments of the population that need this option are people without religion and those who choose a civil burial for ideological reasons.”
MK Haim Jelin (Yesh Atid) said kibbutzim and moshavim that are interested in designating a plot for civil burial should be allowed to do so. ”These Jews are good enough to be sent to Gaza, but they are not good enough to be buried in a respectable manner,” he said.
Attorney Oded Flus, director general of the Ministry of Religious Services, noted that out of the roughly 35,000 people who die in Israel each year, 1,200 demand civil burial. ”Of course, they too have a right to be buried according to their belief,” he said.
Committee chairwoman MK Elharrar concluded the meeting by saying that ”ultimately, the problem is not only a financial one, because more can be done with the available resources in order to grant this right to every person in the State of Israel.”