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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Jerusalem's Jews should be free to choose a non-Orthodox burial if they so wish it, said Wednesday Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky.
"Jerusalem has room for both those who wish to live and die like a Jew and also for those who do not," Lupoliansky, a haredi Jew, told Army Radio Wednesday.
In the coming months Jerusalem will begin building a 365-dunam cemetery with 200 dunam of burial space. Some 10 percent of the space, or 18,000 graves, will be devoted to plots for those who choose alternative burials.
Although touted as his own liberalistic initiative, Lupoliansky was only complying with the law.
In a 1999 decision, the Ministerial Committee on Burial, headed by Gideon Ezra, directed all municipalities in the nation to devote 10% of all new cemeteries to alternative, or non-Orthodox burials.
In Ashkelon, Beersheba and the Hefer Valley land has already been set aside for alternative burials.
Rabbi Ya'acov Ruzah, head of Tel Aviv's burial society [hevra kadisha], said that so far Tel Aviv does not offer alternative burials.
"We try to be as flexible as possible with secular people," said Ruzah. "We don't force anyone to say Kaddish, to tear their shirt or to say any of the prayers.
"But there are three things that I am not willing to compromise: cleaning the body, wrapping it in a shroud and burying the body in the ground."
Ruzah said this held true for all burials that he personally conducted. But he admitted that if a person left a will demanding not to be buried in a Jewish manner it was none of his business.
"It makes me very sad that people turn their backs on Jewish tradition. But what can you do."
Ruzah said that he encountered very few requests for alternative burials that violate Orthodoxy.
Alon Nativ, CEO of Alei Shalechet, a funeral home that offers alternative burials, including cremations, said that it was the right of every Israeli citizen to live and die as he or she chose.
"I applaud Lupoliansky for his comments," said Nativ. "And I offer him my help in establishing the alternative cemetery.
"However, unlike Lupoliansky, I believe non Orthodox is not synonymous with non Jewish. There are other expressions of Judaism that are just as legitimate as Orthodoxy."