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Slightly more than three months after Aley Shalechet, a funeral home in Hod Hasharon, opened the country's first crematorium, more than 200 Israelis have made plans to be cremated when they pass away and about 30 already have been cremated.
Alon Nativ, Aley Shalechet's owner and manager, who invested more than $1 million to build what is probably the Middle East's first and only crematorium, located in Hadera, said he sees himself as a businessman who provides a service.
â€œI am not ashamed to say this is a commercial enterprise,â€ Nativ said. â€œWe are a service provider, which means the customer is the boss. Many of my customers come to me because they are looking for a burial service that reflects the lives they led. It makes no sense to conduct a burial in accordance with Jewish ritual for a person who led a completely secular life.â€
Cremation costs about NIS 10,000, including an ambulance to pick up the body.
Nativ pointed out, however, that from a business perspective, he is fighting an uphill battle since Israeli Jews who do not use conventional burial services in accordance with Jewish law are not entitled to National Insurance Institute burial funding.
â€œCitizens pay in to NII their entire lives and when it comes time to depart this world, they receive nothing just because they choose a type of burial that is not recognized by the state,â€ he said.
Nativ, who began operating the crematorium in June, said about one-third of his customers were non-Jews from the former Soviet Union, though most were Jews either born here or who arrived many decades ago.
Nativ admitted that memories of the Holocaust caused many Israelis to have an aversion to cremation.
â€œActually, I have quite a few customers who are Holocaust survivors. People of this generation were familiar with cremation in other contexts. Besides, some of the most horrific deaths during the Holocaust involved being buried alive,â€ he said.
Yigal Adiv, 30, whose father Shmuel was cremated by Aley Shalechet, said he and two of his siblings also decided to be cremated when the time comes.
â€œEven before my father contracted cancer, I thought about cremation for myself. When he revealed his plans for the disposal of his own body, it turned out that me and my older brother and sister had thought about cremation too.
â€œMy father's primary concern was not to be a burden on everyone. He did not want his loved ones to feel obligated to visit the grave site.â€
Shmuel Adiv's ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean.
Adiv believes there is a human soul that exists after death. â€œTheoretically, I believe it goes somewhere. But I do not think about it a lot. I am still too young.â€
According to Jewish law there is a positive and a negative commandment to bury the dead, which is learned from a verse in Deuteronomy (21:22) â€œAnd if a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain on the tree but thou shalt surely bury him that day.â€
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