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Burial in Israel

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

It is widespread last will for Jews from all around the world to be buried in the Holy Land.  But the burial in Israel is a highly regulated area, mainly because of the predominance of religious rules. The matter of buying a land for a cemetery in Israel, the accreditation for burial organizations and the State subsidies for one’s burial are very specific questions. They require the experience and expertise that our law firm has, and Is wishing to share with you through this article.

Is it possible to buy a land for a cemetery in Israel?

Cemeteries in Israel are managed by burial organizations licensed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Such accreditation is subject to the fulfillment of various legal conditions, according to The Jewish Religious Services Regulations (burial companies) – 5727 – 1966, such as the right to buy a land in Israel, an agreement with the National Insurance Institute, the ability to provide services, proper conduct, third party insurance, and the financial ability to establish, maintain and manage cemeteries.

Moreover, the Ministry of Religious Affairs is imposing additional conditions in terms of security, up keeping, the depth of the grave, the roads, trails, passageways… In addition, in the case of the decease of a Jew interested in Jewish burial, the licensed organization will be subject to the respect of halakhic aspects related to the deceased’s treatment, the burial ceremony and its form, the establishment of the tombstone, in accordance with the rules edited by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and in accordance with the Jewish Religious Services Law – 5731 – 1971. It should be noted that since 2006, it is possible to bury a deceased through a civil process, exempt from the religious’ rules.

How to purchase a land for burial in Israel?

Due to real estate’s shortage in Israel, it is not possible to buy a land and decide to make it a cemetery. However, it is necessary to obtain approval from the Land Authority to change the status of the land (which might take years) or to search for a land dedicated to burial.

It is in the interest of cemetery to bury as many deceased as possible. Therefore, there is no case in which a burial was refused because of the private status of the cemetery. After examining the existing law, we are convinced that there will be no legal issue to establish a private cemetery (according to the above-mentioned conditions). Needless to say that if the State subsidies the construction of the cemetery, it shall require it to host burial of the dead residents of the area.

Who is eligible for the State subsidies for his burial in Israel?

Subsidies from the National Insurance Institute are given only to Israel’s resident (i.e. a person whose center of life is Israel, for instance permanent place of residence, family place of residence, place of children’s education, primary place of work, etc.)

The National Insurance Institute is paying the costs of burial and the usual services in connection with burial for every person who died in Israel and was buried there, and for every resident of Israel who died abroad. Payments are transferred directly from the National Insurance institute to regular licensed funeral organization.

A Jew who lives outside Israel and wishes to be buried in the Holy Land, or an Israeli who lived abroad for a long time and has lost his rights to the National Insurance Institute are not eligible to State financed burial. The price of their burial is not fixed by law, and is subject to the discretion of the funeral organization. However, it should be noted that the 2006 bill that regulates the sales of burring places for foreign Jews, was recently amended, in order to prevents the sale of burring space at exorbitant prices, and make the license holders to publish prices in a manner that will ensure transparency and prevent unreasonable expropriation.

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To this day, the burial domain of religious services in Israel has been regulated by a set of laws. Over the years, legislation in this area has evolved, to a great extent, not through the usual legislative process, but following the raising questions and needs. If you are planning on buying a land in Israel to establish a cemetery, or if you have any question regarding burial in Israel, please contact us.

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