Haredi residents took woman's body for fear of an autopsy, which is against Jewish law.
By MATTHEW WAGNERPublished: JANUARY 28, 2007 08:51Advertisement
A Saturday night drama that began with a body snatching and marathon negotiations between leaders of the Edah Haredit and police ended Sunday evening with the laying to rest of a middle-aged Beit Shemesh woman.
The woman, who was on her way to work at the neighborhood mikve [ritual bath] where she was employed as an overseer of women who immerse themselves, collapsed in the middle of the street in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Magen David paramedics were unable to resuscitate her.
Dozens of Edah Haredit activists from Beit Shemesh then arrived on the scene and snatched the women's body shortly after a doctor confirmed she had died. The activists feared police would insist on an autopsy, which is an anathema to religious sensibilities.
Any unnecessary mutilation of a human's body after death is considered a desecration of God since man is created in God's image. Most halachic authorities allow autopsies only in cases where there was clear foul play.
Police grappled with enraged haredim and arrested at least three, but the body was whisked away.
Several hours later, negotiations began with haredi leaders, including Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, head of the rabbinic court.
Police, in consultation with the woman's family doctor, determined that the deceased had a history of heart disease and that foul play was unlikely. As a result, they were open to striking a deal with the haredim according to which head pathologist of the L. Greenberg Forensics Center at Abu Kabir Dr. Ricardo Nachman would limit himself to an external examination, to rule out signs of violence.
Rabbi Ya'acov Ruzah, the rabbinical authority at Abu Kabir, was approved by the Edah Haredit's Weiss as a representative of the haredim.
The funeral departed from the woman's house in Beit Shemesh Sunday evening and she was buried in Jerusalem.
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