The Jewish cemetery at Kosice in Slovakia, a country once home to a thriving Jewish community.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Final approval has been given to a government decision that would see the National Insurance Institute pay for the costs of civil burial.
Such payments would be made if the deceased are without “religious classification,” or if they simply requested non-religious burial.
Israeli citizens are classified by religion when they are born according to the faith of their parents, and are able to avail themselves to life-cycle services, such as marriage, divorce and burial, through the established religious authority to which they belong.
There are however some 330,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union who are defined as “without religious classification,” since they are not recognized by the Jewish established religious authority, the Chief Rabbinate, as Jewish according to Jewish law.
Jewish law stipulates that non-Jews must be buried in a separate plot, so the burial of such citizens has to be in a civil plot or cemetery.
However, there are only three civil cemeteries in Israel, although there are municipal cemeteries that are by default for religious burial, which have civil burial plots.
Until now, if someone requesting civil burial was a resident or died in a municipal jurisdiction without the option for civil burial, the family had to bear the cost of transportation of the body.
The state has previously had a temporary agreement to pay for the transportation costs of those without religious classification.
The agreement makes this arrangement permanent and covers such costs for those who request non-religious burial as well.
The costs are to be met by the state if there is no option for civil burial in the place of residence, or death, of the deceased.
The agreement, reached between the National Insurance Institute and the Finance Ministry, was approved by the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Tuesday.
According to the deal, burial societies that are funded by the state will pay the families of the deceased the expenses of the civil burial, and the National Insurance Institute will then recompense the burial society for the funds it paid out.
Committee chairman Haim Katz of the Likud welcomed the approval of the agreement, as did MK Yoel Razbozov of Yesh Atid, who described the previous situation as discriminatory.
“[The families of] citizens of this country who are not Jewish according to Jewish law, or those who want to be buried according to their own outlook, are forced to pay large sums of money for the transportation of the deceased to distant cemeteries and are therefore discriminated against,” said Razbozov.
“It is expected that by 2020 we will reach the rate of 4,275 civil burials every year,” said Razbozov. “This injustice has now been rectified and I am glad that the gap between class A citizens and class B citizens is getting smaller. Every citizen has the fundamental right to a dignified burial and I will continue to fight for this.”