IDF's chief rabbi forbids DNA test on bone parts

IDF Chief Rabbi rules that Halacha prohibits forensic DNA tests on IDF soldiers' bone parts handed over by Hizbullah.

IDF chief rabbi 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
IDF chief rabbi 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
OC Chaplaincy Corps Rabbi Avichai Ronsky ruled on Tuesday that Halacha prohibited forensic DNA tests on IDF soldiers' bone parts handed over by Hizbullah since the test entailed destruction of the bone. "It is forbidden to destroy parts of a Jew's body, even for identification purposes," said Rabbi Ya'acov Ruzah, the IDF's rabbinical expert on forensics and burials. "The body has inherent holiness and it must not be desecrated. Therefore, Rabbi Ronsky ruled that it is preferable from a halachic perspective to refrain from performing a DNA test." Without a DNA test the bone matter returned to Israel by the Hizbullah cannot be identified and matched with body parts already interred in Israel. The IDF announced on Tuesday night that the L. Greenberg Institute for Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir had completed the identificaton process, and "agreements with the five bereaved families were made regarding burial details." It said two funerals were held on Tuesday, and "the remaining body parts, unidentified due to their size or condition will be buried together with the casket, according to Jewish religious rites, in a military cemetery." Ronsky's decision is binding for both religious and secular families of the fallen soldiers since according to IDF directives all burial matters are governed by Halacha. In contrast, there is no halachic prohibition against performing a DNA tests on soft tissue such as skin, muscle and blood vessels since performing the test does not cause damage to the tissue. The DNA testing on the soft tissue was completed midday Tuesday, according to Ruzah, who is also the Chief Rabbinate's representative at the Abu Kabir Forensic Medicine Center where the body parts are being held. These body parts will be added to body remains already buried in Israel. However, the casket will not be opened out of respect for maintaining the peace of the dead. Rather they will be placed on top of the buried casket, Ruzah said. According to the accepted opinion in Halacha, in cases where a dead Jew's body parts are separated one from another, as a result of an explosion or a severe car accident, every effort should be made to bury the different pieces of the body in one grave. The definitive opinion on this matter is that of Rabbi Aharon Brachia, who lived in Modena, Italy about four centuries ago. In his book Ma'avar Yabok, which brings together both halachic and kabbalistic sources, Brachia argues that it is important to the restfulness of the soul that all parts of the body be buried together. Nevertheless, according to Rabbi Moshe Sofer, known as the Hatam Sofer, the primary obligation is to bury all body parts in the ground and there is no necessity to keep all body parts together when this is difficult to accomplish. In Beirut, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman announced on Tuesday he had received Hizbullah spy Nasim Nisr, released by Israel on Sunday, and offered him a presidential medal in appreciation for his ordeal in captivity. The statement said Suleiman voiced commitment to securing the release of all Lebanese prisoners in Israeli jails. It also said the president congratulated Nisr, who served a six-year sentence for espionage in Israel. AP contributed to this report