Jewish burial is traditionally handled by the Chevra Kadisha, an organization that ensures the bodies are prepared according to Jewish tradition and protected from desecration.
By Aaron Sull, World Israel News
As long as Jews lived in the Holy Land, the Biblical tradition to purify the dead and bury without a coffin has been observed.
Jewish tradition requires the body to be thoroughly cleansed, water poured on it in a series of sacred Jewish rituals, dressed in a white linen shroud, and buried in the ground without a coffin.
The ritual is traditionally handled by the Chevra Kadisha, an organization that ensures the bodies are prepared according to Jewish tradition and protected from desecration.
Recently, however, Israel’s Health Ministry ordered new regulations for coronavirus-related deaths.
According to the new regulations, the pre-burial ritual can only be performed in four designated centers by specially trained Chevra Kadisha teams wearing full-body protective gear.
The body must be disinfected with a 70% alcohol solution, purified according to tradition, dressed in the customary shroud, and then wrapped in impermeable plastic.
Prior to burial, the body must be wrapped again in plastic, and no one else is allowed to touch it.
As for deceased Jews arriving from abroad to be buried in the Holy Land, the Health Ministry requires the body to arrive in a sealed coffin padded by metal sheets and the corpse already be wrapped in two polyethylene bags.
“Feelings are very much mixed,” said Yakov Kurtz, who works for one of the special trained Chevra Kadisha units, Reuters reported. “We don’t know what to expect, we don’t know how many dead we will have to tend to. There are many fears.”
Originally, the Health Ministry banned the pre-purification rite, but reversed its decision following a meeting between Health Ministry and Religious Affairs Ministry officials, reports Times of Israel.
“In this period, when morale is already at rock bottom, we cannot let the family members or anyone who has a friend, a neighbor, who passes away and is buried like — excuse me — not like a human being, we can’t do it to the morale,” Dov Gelbstein, head of the special Jerusalem Chevra Kadisha coronavirus unit, told the Times.