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Sunday, April 29, 2012

This should make you feel secure: Israeli government planning mass 'temporary' burial in case of mass casualty event

I'm sorry for conjuring up imagery that's probably unfair, but when I read this story, the first thought that crossed my mind was that the State wants to dump bodies in mass graves as happened during the Holocaust R"L (God save us) and that the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) is being Halachically (under Jewish law) correct, but maybe in denial of the reality of a true mass casualty event.

What has happened is that the State has decided that in the event of a mass casualty event (like a nuclear attack) it wants to dump bodies in mass graves 'temporarily' until the bodies are identified, and the Chevra Kadisha wants to 'be prepared.'
In a letter sent on Sunday to Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, the forum, which unites the 12 major Chevra Kadisha branches in Israel, claimed that the national plan for cemeteries, which includes temporary burial for the massive amount of victims or transfer to cooling facilities until final burial can be arranged in civilian cemeteries, is "problematic" from a halachic perspective as well as a humane perspective.

Chevra Kadisha claim that the problematic arrangements can be avoided by regulated preparation.

Under the government plans, the bodies will be buried temporarily, in coffins, at temporary cemeteries. In the second stage, after identification, the bodies are to be transferred for final burial.

"The State and authorities have enough time to prepare to carry out organized burials in emergency situations near the place where the deceased resided, and there is no need to exhume the body to identify it and bury it again at a later and unknown date," the head of the forum of Chevra Kadisha burial services, Ze'ev Rosenberg, claimed.

"The burial solution for emergency situations being promoted by the State is an inhumane and inefficient solution. The plan, where the fatalities are buried temporarily as anonymous bodies in random cemeteries, and only later identified and laid to rest, is a wasteful plan that would cause families needless grief."

Chevra Kadisha also claimed that "the program in question has quite a few problems from both a halachic and psychological perspective – one that can rise as a result of the family's difficulty in dealing with mass burial and the experience of a later reburial."

The alternative presented by the forum includes a few central points, including keeping "extra reserves" of burial sites at the ready – throughout the country – which will be maintained by Chevra Kadisha. The land will be in areas near or adjacent to existing cemeteries so that the necessary infrastructure is already in place if needed in an emergency.
For the record, burial in Israel is ordinarily without a coffin, and inventories of ready graves are not maintained.

Doesn't this make you feel secure? It makes me feel sick and depressed.

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