Burial in Israel is a service granted by the state to the different religious sects in Israel. Burial is carried out by burial societies (Chevre Kadisha) that are affiliated with the local authorities and the local religious councils. The service is provided by the state and is funded by the National Insurance Institute and the local authorities.
Burial for Jews is placed into the hands of the Orthodox Chevrot Kadisha, or burial society. These organizations are responsible for the management of cemeteries, and they decide the character of the burial ceremonies carried out and declare different restrictions and prohibitions such as prohibiting the engraving of a deceaseds name in a foreign language or the use of a non-Hebrew date on the gravestone. Additionally, they collect enormous fees for reserving a specific burial plot next to ones deceased spouse.
On Kibbutzim and Moshavim, burial ceremonies are more open, according to the custom of the place, and in several of these places burial ceremonies are decidedly not religious. Several of these cemeteries are commercial and are open to outsiders interested in burial ceremonies of this type (see below).
In recent years, especially in light of the growing aliyah from the Former Soviet Union, many people who have adoubt concerning their Jewishness, individuals who are not Jewish, or those who lack a religion have come to Israel. Due to this complex reality, in several Jewish cemeteries throughout Israel, doubtful sections have been added. These sections are intended for people whose Jewishness is in doubt, i.e. those who are prohibited from being buried in Orthodox Jewish cemeteries. The burials are done by the local Chevre Kadisha but without a ceremony. The limited number of these sections and their locations throughout the country do not answer the great need.
In recent years, the demand for alternative burial ceremonies has grown. In 1986, the Menucha Nechona, or Rest in Peace, burial society was founded in Jerusalem. The stated purpose of Menucha Nechona is to bury Jews with a ceremony that is either in the spirit of liberal Judaism or secular. Throughout the years, other similar organizations have been founded in Israel, and today these organizations are under the same umbrella organization. Due to the fact that the authorities refused to cooperate with these organizations and to allocate land for the purpose of burials, in 1988, Menucha Nechona petitioned the High Court of Justice to obligate local authorities to recognize it and its fellow organizations as burial societies and to grant them land for this purpose.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that the Minister of Religious Affairs must give this organization a license to operate as an organization for burial affairs and that the Israel Land Administration must allocate land for this purpose within a reasonable period of time. Only in 1996, after a second petition to the High Court of Justice, was land allocated for alternative cemeteries.
At the same time this struggle was taking place, in 1995, the Knesset passed the Alternative Burial Law, which guarantees the establishment of alternative cemeteries throughout Israel.
For more information, please contact our Religious and Cultural Services Department: 03-544-2740, ext.5.