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Why are Jewish dead flown to Israel for burials?
The coffins containing the bodies of the victims of the French shooting arrive at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.
March 21st, 2012
10:45 AM ET

Why are Jewish dead flown to Israel for burials?

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) – The four victims of Monday’s shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, were buried Wednesday morning – not in their home community but, after an overnight flight from Paris, in Jerusalem.

Though two of the young victims were born in Israel, the Consistory of Paris, which represents Jewish communities, told CNN that all the victims were being buried there for reasons of faith, not nationality. Being laid to rest in Israel, the birthplace of Judaism, ensures that their remains will not be tampered with, the group said. It also added that 40% of practicing French Jews are buried in Israel.

French religious Jews aren’t alone in wanting this, and the reasons run deep.

“It goes all the way back to the Bible, when Jacob passed away,” explains Rabbi Shaul Ginsberg, who oversees Shomrei Hachomos, an Orthodox funeral chapel in Brooklyn – which he says is one of three Orthodox funeral homes in New York state.

Before Jacob passed away, Ginsberg says, “One of the things he said to Joseph is, ‘Don’t leave me in Egypt.’”

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He wanted to join those who had died before him, including his grandfather, Abraham, who received the first Jewish burial, Ginsberg says.

In the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 47:28-30 reads:

And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were a hundred forty and seven years.

And the time drew near that Israel [Jacob] must die; and he called his son Joseph, and said unto him: "If now I have found favour in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt.

But when I sleep with my fathers, thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burying-place." And he said: "I will do as thou hast said."

Jacob would be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs, known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham, in what’s now the West Bank city of Hebron.

Another incentive to be buried in Israel extends beyond the Bible - and beyond concerns, for some, about grave desecration. It’s rooted in the belief that when the Messiah comes, those buried in Jerusalem will be resurrected first.

Jews do believe that a figure will emerge to restore peace, save the righteous and judge those who've done wrong. But the Jewish concept of a Messiah is very different from Christianity's view. Christians believe the Messiah already came, in the divine form of Jesus Christ. Jews do not believe this. In fact, they don't believe that the Messiah will be divine - since God, from their perspective, cannot become human.

When the Messiah comes, Judaism teaches, he will shepherd in what's referred to as the "World to Come." There will be peace, no more evil and the reinstatement of the Temple in Jerusalem. And, apropos of this story, all Jews will return to Israel.

The significance of being buried in Israel is one Ginsberg both respects and anticipates for himself. He purchased his plot in Jerusalem years ago and says 60% of those he serves are being flown to Israel for burial.

That choice doesn’t come cheap.

When Ginsberg bought his plot in 2000, it cost him $4,500. But lack of land, demand and simple economics have changed things. The plot next to his, he says, recently sold for $25,000.

Granted, one can choose to be buried outside of Jerusalem at better rates. But once the cost for the flight over is factored in, the price is still steep.

For the majority of Jews outside Israel (and even within Israel) who are not ultra-religious, burial considerations are likely not driven by what Jacob said to Joseph or by thoughts of a potential Messiah. These motivations, in fact, are probably foreign to many of them.

Even so, for very observant Jews, and even for some others who are not Orthodox, the expense of an Israel burial – if they can afford it – may be worth it, says David Zinner, the executive director of K’vod v’Nichum, an organization that provides education and resources about traditional Jewish funerals and burials.

One page on the organization's website is dedicated to burial in Israel, offering tips, links to articles and cemetery options.

Yet Zinner, who works with Jews of all denominations, also points to passages in the Talmud where Rabban Gamliel, a first century authority, argued against expensive burials. Zinner says Gamliel feared high prices deterred people from upholding traditions. To this day, Jews are traditionally not buried in fancy caskets.

By extension, Zinner says, there are many who argue that splurging for a burial in Israel makes little sense.

“Money is to help the living, to give to charity,” Zinner says, summarizing that school of thought.

As for those who are buried outside of Israel, Ginsberg says, the resurrection, when it comes, will not be lost on them. The process will just be more arduous and definitely less comfortable.

Tunnels will be created underground leading to Israel, he says, “and their bones will roll into Israel.”

Those already buried there “will save themselves that pain.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Faith Now • Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism

soundoff (396 Responses)
  1. William DeMuth

    Neo

    Strange reversal. (Please note I am half German)

    I have always thought that the creation of Israel as comensation for the hollocaust would have been a great idea if they had taken the land from Germany instead of making the Palestinians pay for German crimes.

    March 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  2. Urafkntool

    @Joshua: I'm guessing by your name you're Jewish. That would explain the victim complex and defense of Zionists. Frankly, Zionists run Wall Street and the banks. You want to know why we're in trouble? Look in that direction.

    @William: The US was originally started and meant to be a white nation. It's written in the const–i–t-ution itself. Even you can't deny that.

    March 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  3. tony

    The god who parted the Red Sea is apparently the same one who drowned about 250,000 innocents in the last coupla Tsunamis. But you won't hear any religious types questioning how to explain the inconsistency

    March 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • obomakum

      the Jews are God's chosen people...all the rest of the world's trash can try to get rid of them, but it will never happen. The basturds can go to church and pray from here to eternity for their lost souls, but God always protects the Jew's. I know that!

      March 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @obomakum: So you know what your god is thinking? Invisible friends really don't talk...it's only the voices in your head.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • William DeMuth

      Doc Vestibule

      That was COLD even by my standards.

      WELL DONE!!

      March 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • just sayin

      Tell it to the Egyptian Army.
      You do not understand God.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Duh

      "You do not understand God."

      That's because your god doesn't exist, that's a no brainier, only an insecure person buys into it.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  4. Thinker23

    If yo uREALLY think so then you must believe that the Jews have superhuman powers... and if THIS is the case then the favorite legend of the Jew-haters saying that the Jews are the "chosen" people must be true...

    March 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  5. john

    Jews from around the world for the last 3000 years wanted to be buried in Israel long before there was a Zionist movement,Israel is the holiest place for Jews.

    March 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Bubba

      Holiest place for Jews is Florida!

      March 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  6. Bubba

    I had a native American Indian knocking at my door last and demanding to have his ancestral home ( my present resident) back. I wonder if he should have it back?

    March 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  7. Thinker23

    William DeMuth... Can you exlain the Big Bang using Chaos and Coincidence? Please?

    March 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  8. Thinker23

    William DeMuth... Can you explain the Big Bank using Chaos and Coincidence? Please?

    March 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • William DeMuth

      An oscillating state has always existed.

      All that is always has been. Nothing is created nor destroyed, things merely change.

      Chaos and coincidence cause expansions and contractions of what is and always shall be.

      Quite simple really

      Chaos is a boy, and coincidence a girl.

      (You see my fable leaves out the cannibalisim rituals and reanimated dead stories to make it more kid freindly)

      March 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  9. JD

    Really, they began the Iraq-Iran War? They started the civil war in Syria? they were responsible for the bloodshed in Libya? They are responsible for the murder of innocents in South Sudan? They are responsible for Al Queida? They are responsible for Pakistan and Afghanistan? They are responsible for the murder of Christians in the Middle East? Wow, these Zionists have more influence than I thought!!!

    March 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Joshua

    No difference. Anti-Semitism of the 21st century is disguised as Anti-Zionism and Anti-Israelism. ZIONISM is the Jewish National Movement to realize the rights of Jews to sovereignty in their historic homeland of Israel, to a state that is Jewish by character (as there re 52 Muslim states and 22 Christian states), and the right of Jews to defend themselves against attack.

    If you are Anti-Zionist, you are an Anti-Semite.

    March 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  11. lin9

    @Joshua : no i didn't say "Jews" i said ZIONISTS , not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews.

    March 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  12. Joshua

    Yes, of course. The Jews are the problem. Throw the Jews down the well, and all the world will be peaceful and kind. Just like in Baghdad and Tehran, Beirut and Damascus. It's all because of those 15 million Jews in the world.

    March 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  13. Joshua

    Fewer Jews from any country will be buried in Israel when the World stops killing Jews. Stop the Muslim Jihadis. Stop the Ayatollahs and their nuclear weapons program. Stop the Nazis. Stop Hamas and Hezbollah with their genocidal charters to kill all the Jews. And stop those on US college campuses denying Israel's right to exist and defend itself and Jews everywhere.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  14. Yossi

    Because in one or two generations Europe will become a Muslim continent...

    March 21, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  15. Thinker23

    William DeMuth... Can you explain how exactly the US (or France or Sri Lanka) is "ripped off" by a person willing to be buried elsewhere? Thank you.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • William DeMuth

      Because multiculturalism is a failure.

      Placing religiosity or ethnicity above nationalisms weakens the state and puts us all at risk.

      Anyone who works in one place, yet moves the fruits of his labor somewhere else is considered a migrant.

      Be they workers or transient laborers whose loyalties are to wealth, and not to a culture, they cannot be trusted.

      I work with people every day who admit they have no loyalty at all to America, they are merely interested in our wealth and access to our markets.

      Either you are loyal to a specific nation, or you are not.

      The Europeans permitted MILLIONS of immigrants in who refused to assimilate, and now their societies are collapsing.

      I hope we are spared the same future, but I doubt it.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Observer

      Good question. Personally, I expect to be cremated with my ashes dispersed in the stratosphere.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Joshua

      So, by your logic, all the US Catholics who are loyal to the Pope should "go back to Rome"? And all the US Protestants loyal to the Church of England should go there? Lutherans should go back to Germany? Russian Orthodox to Russia? Those with strong ethnic ties to and family in Ireland should "go back" to Ireland? The Chinese community in San Francisco who maintain their heritage, language, and culture should all pack up and "go back" to China?

      March 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • William DeMuth

      Joshua

      Not at all.

      But those who are so enamored with their faith that they abandon their homeland in death should probably do so in life.

      I know THOUSANDS of Catholic Americans, and not one who desires to spend eternity rotting in Roman soil.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Thinker23

      AGuest9... It might be helpful if you recalled that there were many different religions based upon many sistems of ethics and logic. The ONE common principle of them is the belief in the Creator. The ONE principle that is common to various flavors of atheists is the belief that THERE IS NO Creator.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Thinker23

      William... You still did not answer my question: how exactly the US (or France or Sri Lanka) is "ripped off" by a person willing to be buried elsewhere?

      I did not expect you to answer, to say the truth. Racists of all flavors are usually unable to answer questions about their own claims because they KNOW that their claims are FALSE.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • William DeMuth

      Thinker23

      I most certainly did. Nationalisim requires loyalty to the state in return for the benifits of membership.

      If you don't pay your dues, you should not expect the benifits. Transfers of wealth abroad should get you executed!

      As for claiming I am racist or an anti semite, I laugh! Yassir Arrafat is far more Semetic that the entire Kinneset

      March 21, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Thinker, belief in the supernatural defies logic.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • AGuest9

      I'm being to think that a more apt handle for you would be "Believer23".

      March 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Thinker23

      AGuest9... So YOU believe that the Universe came into existence ALL BY ITSELF FROM NOTHING... and you're telling us that THIS belief of yours DOES NOT defy logic???

      March 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  16. Observer

    Frustrating isn't it, jimtanker?

    March 21, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  17. Observer

    I wondered why anyone would actually want the West Bank. One day it will be cemeteries from end to end.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • William DeMuth

      My mother dubbed it the future mushroom farm back in the day.

      She believed it would inevitably become a radioactive wasteland within my lifetime.

      The jury is still out on her prediction, but she may have been closer to the mark than any of us may want to believe.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  18. !

    People need to come to Christ Jesus. He is the only way to Heaven.

    March 21, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Acts 4:12

      Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • !!!!

      There is no proof of your god, no proof of heaven, no proof of hell. You don't need to believe in a god to have a meaningful life.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • jimtanker

      !,

      And your evidience for this claim is?

      March 21, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Luke 11:29

      As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah."

      March 21, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Thinker23

      It is correct that there is no proof of God because religion is a FAITH based on a set of BELIEFS that are IN PRINCIPLE impossible to prove. On the other hand, so is atheism.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • !!

      "“This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.""

      Seeing as 80% of people in America claim to be Christians then I guess you are all "wicked." Your post is nothing but drivel meaningless words from a religious book. "Riddikulus!"

      March 21, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • AGuest9

      If you truly were a "Thinker", I'm not sure how you could compare being atheist to being religious. There is no central tenet or code to subscribe if one is atheist, no leadership. It is based upon many systems of ethics and logic, not millenia-old legends.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  19. WILLIAMS

    This is supposed to be year 2012

    March 21, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Norman

      No, it's 5772.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • jimtanker

      It's also 4708 if you go by the Chinese calendar.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  20. William DeMuth

    Because they are not French.

    They are loyal only to Zion.

    March 21, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • J.W

      I always figured William considered himself a child of God. This confirms it.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Moises

      I think France has much more serious loyalty problems than a few Jews being buried in Israel (hint: widespread rioting a couple years ago).

      March 21, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • William DeMuth

      Moises

      Exactly.

      The stench of thiests, be they Jew Muslim or Christian is strong in Vichy.

      They use the French people for a free ride, but they have never considered themselves French.

      A note to my fellow Americans. If you want to be buried somewhere else, please go live there before you die, and stop ripping off loyal Americans.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Igor Zalmenovski

      Just look at today's news. Jewish graves desecrated in Poland. This happens all over the world. The hatred of Jews runs so deep that people even destroy their headstones. Hence, burial in the Jewish State where sick hateful individuals can't harm the dead and the burial site.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • William DeMuth

      Igor Zalmenovski

      Do you believe that buys them more than a few more years?

      Jewish graves, like Zoroastrian graves, Incan graves, and even the Easter Islanders graves shall all be erased by the sands of time. Ironicaly, the Middle East is really just a grave yard of dead grave yards, with layers of corpses piled upon one another, with the most recent cults followers on the top level.

      Rest assured, there shall be plenty more layers to come.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • GOD

      There is no proof of your brain as no one has ever seen it. But you still believe that you have a brain because you assume certain world events are related to it. Next time you watch a human child being born, ask again if you do not believe in some form of "God" concept, at least in a natural order of the universe. Then when you take a deep breath, think about who put the air there.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • William DeMuth

      GOD

      Silly! Lack of understanding now requires a we embrace a Palestinian Super Hero as a creator?

      If you need to worship something, I offer you Chaos and Coincidence, because they are the only forces required to explain everything that is.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • igal

      Okay, so statistics says that there are about 25% of Americans who are antisemites and now we know that about 75% of those follow CNN, including Demuth, or whatever the hell his name is.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • William DeMuth

      igal

      Semites? I suspect you can't even define the term.

      The Palestinian people are Semites. The Israelies are primarily of European descent.

      To be Pro Israel is to be Anti Semetic.

      March 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Urafkntool

      Even the Orthodox Je-ws protest the existence of Israel. Are they anti-se-mi-tic too?

      March 21, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Hannah

      Semite: A member of any of the peoples who speak or spoke a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs.

      Anti-Semitism: The intense dislike for and prejudice against Jewish people

      errific at one point meant 'causing terror; terrifying.' However, now it is used as 'extremely good; wonderful.'. Anti-semitic has come to mean anti-jewish. That may not be the actual opposite of the word semitic, but sometimes words change meaning.

      @Urafkntool: Not all Jews of any movement have the same views on Israel, generalizations do not work.

      September 20, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.