(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger held a discussion this morning (Tuesday), 24 May 2005, on the halakhic (Jewish law) instructions regarding the evacuation of graves from Gush Katif in the framework of the implementation of the Disengagement Plan.

IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss, Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ilan Cohen, Disengagement Authority Director Yonatan Basi, Meir Spiegler (who is the Prime Minister’s Office official responsible for religious services) and other senior rabbis attended the discussion, which was held at the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem.

The main issue under discussion was the evacuation of graves from Gush Katif.  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had requested that the Chief Rabbis, who are leading halakhic authorities, discuss this sensitive issue.

There is a central cemetery in Gush Katif that serves the entire Jewish population of the Gaza Strip and which has 48 graves. In accordance with Government decisions, the evacuation of graves from Gush Katif will be carried out by the IDF Rabbinate. Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Cohen said that the Government would carry out any solution necessary in order to appropriately resolve this sensitive issue and added that the Government will allocate all necessary resources to this end.

In order to find a solution that will make things as easy as possible for the bereaved families, it was decided that Gush Katif would be visited in the coming days in order to examine this issue from close at hand. After the Chief Rabbis will have held talks with representatives of the bereaved families and settler leaders, a final opinion on the issue will be formulated.