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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. Richard Harris

    @Thinker23-Excellent quips!

    March 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  2. aurelius

    It's because the allegiance of a Jew is and always will be to Israel first, not to his country of origin. If he doesn't he's not really a Jew.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Thinker23

      All flavors of racism are based on ridiculous lies.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Andy Daniel

      Grow up. Jews are not one-dimensional. We may support Israel, be loyal Americans, be rabid Yankees fans or hate the Yankees, love Coke or Pepsi. The reasons for burial in Israel is that French law declares graves abandoned if not visited for a few years, and if the family cannot be contacted within some time, the grave reverts to the cemetery who may remove the coffin and resell the plot. Removing a coffin runs contrary to Jewish custom so many choose to be buried in Israel.

      By contrast, American Jews rarely choose to be buried in Israel, as our cemetery plots are usually in perpetuity.

      March 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  3. Keith

    I hope the French police have dipped their bullets in pig's blood. Do not pass GO, do not collect 72 virgins.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Nonovyerbeezwax

      As if they care about your half-witted opinion on anything.

      March 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Keith

      Assuming yet another name there, eh?

      March 22, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  4. Iconoclast

    I'm just going to say, so you don't all think I'm a heartless b a s t a r d. I think these killings are abyssimal, horrendous, detestable and any other negative adjective you want to throw in there. AND I support completely the right of the bereaved to bury their loved ones where ever they wish, for what ever reason.

    March 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Iconoclast... You did not answer my question below... Did I EVER suggest using prayer INSTEAD of medical care, genius? Would you claim that computers are useless because EATING them instead of traditional food would cause certain death?

      March 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  5. AtrociAtheist

    First it was BILLBOARDS targeting jews and now...KILLING! TSK! TSK! TSK!

    Is this prophecies in the book of revelation being fulfilled?

    March 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Silverbullet

      There'll be more coming, in preparation of the coming of the beast.

      His minions are on the loose, many of them are on this space.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  6. A Dingo

    Jews took my baby!!

    March 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Sorry..but during your meth high...you lost it. The state took it away.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  7. Granny 13 has legion on her head and rambles on
    March 21, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  8. LeftLeaning

    It's hilarious how every article that simply mentions Israel or Jews is swarmed by racist, bigoted, anti semitic mouth breathers who find it easy to take out all their frustration on the Jews. We Jews have been in Israel for thousands of years before Muhammad even got his first sword (age 5). Israel was created as result of a UN mandate and was backed by most of the world because of their guilt at turning a blind eye toward the holocaust. They were happy with what they got but their neighbors wouldn't have it so they repeatedly attacked and repeatedly got their asses kicked. So now they have what they have which is how most world borders have always been shaped. LIVE with IT!! They're not going anywhere.
    WE THE JEWS, use our brains rather than swords and as a result own YOU. The banks you get loans from, the movies you see, the politicians you vote for are all in our pocket. The computer you're trying on had most of its chips developed by us in ISRAEL. As much as you like to recreate the holocaust tough luck...IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!!!

    March 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Karen.G

      banks you get loans from, the movies you see, the politicians you vote for are all in our pocket. The computer you're trying on had most of its chips developed by us in ISRAEL . then why your prime minister visit every year to us come begging for my tax money?

      March 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Karen... Did Israeli Prime Minister tell YOU in advance the agenda and the purpose of his visit to the US?

      March 21, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Snow

      Such modesty.. brings tears in my eyes..

      BTW, you should read up more about the global trade and economics.. you know, the processes that make a final product (military or not).. Just because iphone gets manufactured in china does not mean Chinese own the product in and out.. think about it..

      and fyi, a lot of the world does not really care about jews either way.. and your little rant about how grand and superior you are to others probably made a few new haters.. you make your own haters and then have the gall to wonder why so many hate you? geez.. get a life

      March 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • toadears

      Nope. Can't go along with you on this one. EVERY story on here gets hit with racists and fools of all ages, creeds, and colors, but particularly teenagers. Usually I go along with those who say Jews are singled out, but not on here. NOTHING is sacred or respected on CNN message boards. There's a slew of atheists on here also. They troll the belief stories.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Alison

      I and I am sure many other relatives of WW2 veterans take offence at you saying we turned a blind eye to the holocaust.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • afrank

      yeah, send all these jews back to israel...and put a high fence around so they cant get out any longer.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  9. Karen.G

    Well said peace lover. very true. Israel the aggressor to blame.

    March 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Thinker23

      You should ask someone to explain to you the meaning of the words 'AGGRESSION' and 'AGGRESSOR', Karen. You'll be amazed to discover that the word 'AGGRESSION' means "an UNPROVOKED attack" and the word 'AGGRESSOR' means "someone committing an act of AGGRESSION".

      March 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • LeftLeaning

      The money our prime minister receives is not a blank check. It's actually money given to Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics etc. to support the corporate welfare reality of the military industrial complex. You should read more!

      March 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Peter

      Karen G,
      you seem like an intelligent person,well you can type and spell. "Israel the aggressor" you say. Unfortunately you are so mislead. Let me ask you some important questions,so as I can understand your position. Because you obviously come from a position of great understanding and knowledge:
      Do you know any Israelis?
      Do you know any Israeli Arabs?
      Have you been to an Israeli hospital that treats Arabs?
      Have you been to Israel?
      Do Israelis KNOWINGLY kill innocent children in their war of survival?
      It is a known tactic of Hamas and Hezbollah to place rocket launches and fire rockets from civilian neighbourhoods. Fact.
      Do Israelis strap bombs to themselves and blow up innocent civilians,?
      Do the Jews now the value of Love and Life?
      Is it upon every Muslim to kill every Jew or Gentile, (hey thats me and you!!) that doesn't recognise Islam as the one true religion?
      How many Arab nations are there? A: 46 at last count.
      How many Jewish nations are there? A: 1 and only ever 1
      How many Jews in the world? A: 16 million
      How many Arabs in the world? A; 1.5 BILLION
      Do you think even if Israel gave up its RIGHT TO EXIST, Islamic militancy would cease to exist?
      Does Israel or in fact those three little Jewish girls in France have a right to live?
      I could keep going, but I hope you get my point.
      If you are going to make sweeping statements like you did, at least do your research.
      The world is full of enough people ready to make uneducated judgements without you adding to it.
      How about you take yourself OFF that list.?

      March 21, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  10. octopus

    Yeah you need some 2-year old to remind you how bigoted you are.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  11. Ridiculous

    Dig up all the graves and export them over there. Means more land on the Americas for everyone else. :)

    March 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • octopus

      You like digging graves, don't you?

      March 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • toadears

      umm...eww. And the last thing you need over here is more vacant land.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  12. PEACE LOVER

    This is business as usual. Israel occupying innocent Palestinian lands, No one brings justice to Palestine. So when these people being terrorized by Israel they become terrorist and israel kills innocent palatines behalf of terrorist. People who hurt by these killings, they kill innocent jews around the world and sending bodies to Israel. Where did these all gone wrong? Even 2 years old will tell you. Isn’t it? What goes around comes around!.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Chaya

      The land is Eretz Yisrael – there is no such thing as the 'palestinian' people. This has been our Homeland for thousands of years. Arabs arrived in Israel when Jews came on Aliyah in the 1880's because of the opportunity to find work; then during the British Mandate the British turned their backs on Arabs coming in from surrounding countries while limiting the number of Jews allowed in and even sending Jews back to Europe to be burned in the crematorium! The only ones who used the name Palestine were the Jews. The Arabs never referred to themselves by that name. It's a hoax!

      March 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • octopus

      Did you learn history from a 2-year old?

      March 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Thinker23

      "Innocent Palestinian lands"??? Have you ever seen GUILTY lands? Further, can you SHOW THE LEGAL DEEDS proving that these "innocent lands" belong ONLY to Palestinians? Further, DO YOU REALIZE that if the Palestinians did not like the current arrangement they would NEGOTIATE A BETTER DEAL long ago?

      March 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Alison

      Palestine was mentioned as early as 520BC by greek scholars.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Thinker23

      "Palestine was mentioned... by Greek scholars". So???

      March 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Alison

      @ Thinker. Just making a point to those who say Palestine never existed that it has in fact been mentioned for thousands of years.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Actually..you are wrong Allison..in a sense. The word Palestine came from Latin, Greek and even Hebrew words. But...a group of ppl that are identified by a place called Palestine is a modern invention.
      You go back a measly century and the ancestors of today's "Palestinians" would probably identify themselves as Arabs or citizens of the Ottoman Empire....not Palestinians.

      March 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  13. sick dog

    sounds like a lot of excuses to rile up Israelis into beleiving everyone hates them. We tried to use Pat Tillman the same way

    March 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  14. Psalm 83

    We pray with you for your Peace!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer is useless. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs

      Plus there was an article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • William

      If you do not believe in Prayer that don't use that handle.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Jesus... The "statistical studies" are wrong. Ask ANY religious person (non-religious don't pray) and he/she will tell you that prayers make him/her feel better.

      March 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      @William: You obviously don't know any hispanics. Here at my job in Albuquerque I couldn't throw a rock without hitting 5 people named Jesus. Half of them are atheists.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      @Thinker: Your handle is an obvious misnomer. Did you not read the part about how many sick children could have been saved if they had sought medical assistance instead of praying? That's right, make yourself feel better while your children die. Prayer is useless and can be lethal.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Iconoclast... Did I EVER suggest using prayer INSTEAD of medical care, genius? Would you claim that computers are useless because EATING them instead of traditional food would cause certain death?

      March 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      @Thinker: Just seemed like you chose to ignore that part of Jesus' post. And that's one heck of a stretch for an analogy.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Yes, I've ignored that part of Jesus' post because it was irrelevant to the question. Further, turning to prayers instead of medical care is as useless as eating computers instead of soup and salad.

      March 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  15. billy_Spudd

    Which just goes to show that Jewish loyalties are first to Judaism and Israel before they are to the country they are subverting, I mean, living in.

    If they love Israel so much....why don't they just move there and leave the rest of the world alone????!!!!

    March 21, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Wow you are an idiot. Tell us, are you going to be buried in your back yard? Or are you going to have your carc@ss taken someplace to be thrown in a hole?
      I swear ppl have some odd ideas about loyalty to one's nation.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Roitr

      Because than people will tell them to leave Israel, and to go back to their origins in Europe.

      Just kidding.. that's not the real reason.
      It is only something that people around the world are telling the Jews in Israel to do.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Peter

      Spudd, you idiot....who got killed here, three innocent children. Jew, Gentile, it doesnt matter, they were children. Murdered by hatred, in the form of Islam. Now who should go home? You just sided with the killer, you idiot!

      March 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Chaya

      That is what we would like – to increase the number of Jews living here in Israel. But the majority of Jews living in the Diaspora don't feel the need to make Aliyah. And the vast majority get buried where they are. The French Jews, however, are much more connected with our tradition than American Jews are. The American Jews are probably the most assimilated in the world.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • octopus

      Dude, why don't you leave the world alone and leave it altogether already? You'll do a great favor to yourself and to the world.
      I only hope that you yourself do realize how dumb and diisgusting you are.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  16. Abraham's costly mistake!

    May Peace abide within the hearts of every mortal soul. Our heart goes out to the innocent victims of this never ending hatred and violence.

    March 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • 2 corinthians 6:14

      It was Sarah's impatience.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  17. Duh

    "Now that we're all "multicutural" and our country's been sold out to non-whites, it's also a major s-h-i-t-hole."

    The reason it became a " s-h-i-t-hole" is because the white Christian greed on Wall Street that drove our economy into the toilet and a white christian president that lied to the world to start a bogus war.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  18. Joseph

    It is very concerning to jews living outside of I srael,that when something like this happens the dead are "repatriated" to Israel and receive semi military or state funerals.This just reinforces the view of the extremists that jews everywhere are legitimate military targets,even the children because the state of Israel seems to treat them as extensions of the state.
    The small benefit of being buried in the holy land is definitely a much lesser consideration,and this type of spectacle should be avoided by burials being done locally..There are many important world leading rabbis buried out of Israel!!

    March 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • mike

      Whether to be buried in Israel is of course something that every Jew must decide for
      himself or herself but do not think for a minute that anti-semitism, anti-zionism or whatever else you might want to call
      it will be diminished one iota if Jews become afraid to practice their religion or to idenitfy with the land or state of Israel. History is replete with examples of Jewish communities that were insulated in their diasporas, some of which even rejected the concept of returning to Zion, and that were nevertheless annihilated by anti-semitic forces. There is obviously nothing "militaristic" about choosing to observe this tradtion and we
      can't be intimidated from being who we are or we are lost.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • momoya

      I can't imagine it being much of a decision if the Jew in question is poor.

      March 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • octopus

      What "semi military or state funerals"? What "extension of the state"? What on earth are you talking about?

      March 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Joseph... Do you really believe that these murderous Jew-haters need "reinforcements" to their belief that it is acceptable to kill the Jews considering that their Prophet actually ORDERED them to kill every Jew?

      March 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  19. Pipe-Dreamer

    Throughout History, the dead remain an everness that summons more of the essenced dying as futures bring the deadliness of decaying embodiments and it makes no difference as to who dies first or is dead last. Being upon this Plain of existence is but a smitten of Time within the quagmires of relative die-polarized cosmologic expansionism. Live Life within the instances of momentumn's relishings until being called back into the 1st Dimension of Cosmologies, the Atomized Cosmology that makes up and encompasses all things of our Etherealness.

    March 21, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • momoya

      That pipe must have a fairly large bowl.

      March 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      :-)

      March 21, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Brian

      He must be from California

      March 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • susan

      Oy, not a clue what you're talking about..........

      March 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • billy_Spudd

      To paraphrase Franklin, "After 3 days, guests and the dead smell".

      March 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  20. Uncouth Swain

    No..just the bs you are throwing about right now

    March 21, 2012 at 1:50 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.