Without the rabbinate, I'll have a Jewish burial
Hundreds of Jews are buried in civil cemeteries every year in Israel, out of choice, and in nearly all cases, without relinquishing of the ceremony's religious elements.
By Yair Ettinger Tags: Jewish World Bar Ilan Orthodox Jew Jerusalem
The cancer he fought over a long period left Prof. Hanan Eshel time to plan his farewell to this world. Eshel, a Bar-Ilan University archaeologist who was a world-renowned expert on the Second Temple period and the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a religiously observant Jew. Before his death, last year, at the age of 51, he asked his family to bury him at the secular Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha, near Jerusalem. Though the cemetery is non-religious and private, the preparation for burial and the funeral itself all followed traditional rabbinical law: The body underwent ritual purification and was wrapped in a shroud, the mourners tore their garments, and the Kaddish and El Malei Rachamim prayers were said.
Hanan Eshel lived as a Jew and died as a Jew, and was buried in his own way at a quiet and verdant cemetery, with the help of an Orthodox rabbi he had known during his lifetime and who is not connected to a burial society - instead of at the cold and harsh stone "factory" of Har Hamenuhot, Jerusalem's principal Jewish cemetery, in Givat Shaul.
Rabbi Benjamin Lau, rabbi of the Ramban Congregation in Jerusalem, recalls the ceremony he conducted for Hanan Eshel mainly as a "completely ordinary funeral." Though there were vocal and instrumental musical passages, against which there is no prohibition in rabbinical law, not a single religious element was absent from it.
As a religiously observant individual, Eshel's choice of burial in a civil cemetery was unusual. However, hundreds of Jews are buried in civil cemeteries every year in Israel, out of choice, and in nearly all cases, without relinquishing of the ceremony's religious elements. There are cases in which the religious ceremony is completely standard, but the family prefers to invite a rabbi or cantor privately, from one religious stream or another, rather than putting the rites in the hands of people from a hevra kadisha, an establishment burial society.
This is another step in the privatization of religious life in Israel: As in private Orthodox wedding ceremonies and private conversions, here too there is a group that is in effect distinguishing between religion and the religious establishment - in this case the hevra kadisha. Here too Jews are preferring to act in the civil-secular realm, while strictly adhering to tradition and rabbinical law in all their details. The main point for them is that they have a choice as to how to do this.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Hanan Eshel and Jewish burials in Israel
THE LATE HANAN ESHEL is featured in a Jerusalem Post article on recent trends in Jewish burials in Israel: