62% of Israelis want a religious funeral
Ynet-Gesher poll finds: Most Israelis prefer to be buried in a religious
ceremony and see no need to change status quo. Non-Jewish IDF soldiers must
be buried in standard cemetery plots at all cost
Kobi Nahshoni YNET Published: 11.27.07, 13:10 / Israel Jewish Scene
While none of us meticulously plan for our deaths, the majority of the
Israeli public knows exactly how they would like to be buried, and just who
would conduct the funeral. A joint poll conducted by Ynet and the Gesher
foundation, found that 62% of Israelis would like to be buried in a
religious ceremony, and, moreover, 51% of Israelis believe that the
traditional Jewish funeral should not be altered.
Tradition, however, is quickly set aside for IDF soldiers. Most Israelis
staunchly maintain that non-Jewish soldiers must be buried in ordinary
cemetery plots just like their Jewish fellows. And just who would we like to
conduct the funeral? On this, opinions differ. Secular Jews would like a
family member to preside over their funeral, whereas religious Jews seem to
favor the Chevra Kadisha.
When asked "How would you like your relatives or family members to be
buried?" 62% of Israelis mentioned a traditional Jewish funeral; whereas 17%
opted for a secular burial. Only four percent of respondent opted for the
more controversial option of cremation, a notion that has recently enraged
the hardei community. The remainder of the sample refused an answer.
Tradition or change?
Most Israelis do not want to "upgrade" or alter the traditional Jewish
funeral, and remain loyal to tradition. Fifty-one percent of Israelis
describe the traditional Jewish funeral as "unique", and feel that it should
not be changed. Other segments of the Israeli population would like to
"update" the Jewish funeral service.. somewhat.
Eighteen percent of respondents preferred burial in a coffin to a stretcher,
and an additional 6% recommended adding more "modern" reading to the
traditional prayers and psalms.
In death, even secular Jews appear to remain loyal to tradition. Forty three
percent of secular Jews see no need to alter the traditional service, and an
additional 9% would simply like to add additional readings and poems to the
more time-honored prayers.
Israelis, moreover, seem to have special reverence for IDF soldiers. There
is still a great deal of controversy as to where non-Jewish IDF soldiers
ought to buried, to which most Israelis replied - right alongside their
Sixty-two percent of Israelis stated that the army must bury non-Jewish
soldiers in ordinary cemetery plots. Nine percent of respondents feel
non-Jewish soldiers ought to be buried in secular cemetery plots, and seven
percent stated that such solders ought to be buried on the outskirts of
Jewish cemeteries. It is important to note that the IDF buries non-Jewish
casualties in special sub-plots within military cemeteries, without any
Who would Israelis like to preside over their funerals? On this issue, too,
Israelis appear to be mostly in keeping with tradition. Thirty-six percent
of Israelis would like to leave this task to the traditional Chevra Kadisha.
Twenty-two percent of Israelis would like to designate this task to a close
family member or friend; whereas an additional 19% would like to train
Rabbis to help grieving families connect with a sense of Jewish identity and
tradition. Whereas secular Jews would prefer to be buried by a family member
of friend (34%), religious Jews, not surprisingly, would leave this task to
the Chevra Kadisha.
So what do all of these facts and figures actually mean? Shoshi Becker, head
of Gesher educational enterprises, suggests that the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic
world combine the traditional Jewish funeral service with other, alternate
approaches for the more secular public, and allow a more "personalized"
approach to burial.
She notes that in Israel today even those seeking a secular burial can have
a solemn and dignified service. As pertains to non-Jewish IDF soldiers Beker
notes: "The Israeli public recognizes the vital public and national role
that IDF soldiers play, and therefore would like to see all soldiers buried
in special military plots."
This poll, conducted by the Mutagin center, was based upon a representative
sample of 500 adult, Hebrew speaking Jewish Israelis.