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: Israel • Jerusalem • Judaism

soundoff (396 Responses)
  1. D

    Never learn, do they?

    March 21, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  2. AtrociAtheists

    First, it was BILLBOARDS targeting jews and now...KILLING! What's next?

    March 21, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • HitLenin

      It maybe a different pattern but exactly the same purpose with the holoucaust.

      March 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • AgrippaMT

      More of the same would be fine.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
  3. Enoch

    There are probably two or three groups of people on this planet who have a collective Godly mission as a nation: Jews, Ethiopians and likely Egyptians. The rest, American, British or German can only be saved as an individual.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • Will

      What does that even mean?

      March 21, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Nathan

      Will you are so ignant, How dare you ask the president of LALA land stupid questions!

      March 21, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Chumbucket

      Brilliant Enoch. I agree. Ha. You've picked the most connected to one another groups and listed them. The fact that Will and Nathan are even asking what that even means shows they clearly know jack about those three groups...

      March 21, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • RealityCheck

      Enoch already!

      March 22, 2012 at 6:15 am |
  4. frani

    Israel, like it or not, a chosen people.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • Jean Paul Gonzales

      Chosen yes! To be hated by everyone till the end of days....You, see those type of superiority beliefs really get to people...Just like your buddy Nazis...

      March 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Muneef

      Do you mean they been chosen to eliminate every other race on earth? Or rather been chosen for what exactly?

      March 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Muneef

      They were the chosen people before Christianity and Islam but now this superiority is over now...and no one is superior over the other any more...

      March 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Muneef

      Actually it was the word used that they were favored over other races and not superior.... They were favored by GOD and made most of the Prophets of GOD from their Race of Isaac and Jacob and down to Jesus but only then when they still gone denying and killing the Prophets and Messangers of GOD doing opposite to what they been told, that GOD has withdrawn the being favored from them and given the Prophecy and the being of Messanger of GOD to one of the race of Ismael (Muhammed) who was the last of chain of Prophets and Messangers of GOD and ever since that the Hatred has started against the Arabs for being chosen as favored to have a Prophet and Messanger of GOD from their race.
      That is the whole story and the Quran testifies to that...! Not to forget that the Old Testment has mentioned the arrival of the Comforter after Jesus and was named as Ahmed.

      March 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • Muneef


      ‘Jesus predicted coming of Prophet Mohammed’ in Bible found in Turkey
      Sunday, 26 February 2012


      Jesus predicted advent of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)
      Turkish minister says Vatican has asked to see the book


      March 22, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  5. Carol

    At least in Israel the Mormons can't baptize the dead.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • AGuest9

      What's stopping them?

      March 21, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  6. lambertamr

    That desert is clearly not good for anything else. Let's dump all our dead bodies there.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  7. alateos

    My condolences go to all people who die from killings

    March 21, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  8. Jean Paul Gonzales

    That's the problem...Jews are not from any country, they will never be "citizens", they will never embrace any nationality...that is why they will always get treated like outcasts, An American Christian, is a person who is born American and is part of the Christian faith....Jews are Jews...nothing else.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • SPFIX

      And a putz is a putz and nothing else............

      March 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Mike B

      "An American Christian, is a person who is born American and is part of the Christian faith....Jews are Jews...nothing else."

      You, sir, are a nitwit! An American Jew is a person who is born American and is part of the Jewish faith. I do not know of any American Jews that do not embrace their American-ness and they are all as patriotic as their non-Jewish American counterparts.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • jew

      by your stupidness i guess you are definitely not A JEW
      god help you...

      March 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Laurent Martens

      This is already beyond my tolerance. So I reported it.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  9. J

    I think when people accuse Jews of having allegiance to Israel over the US, they are missing a fundamental distinction between the STATE of Israel and the LAND of Israel. Jews have a deep affinity to the actual land as it was the place where the holy temple stood. That deeply held belief in no way conflicts the equally deeply held belief that America is the greatest country on earth with the most freedom and the most opportunity.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Which explains the fear of the Kennedy Administration and the imagined subversion to Rome.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  10. tsm

    In this case; if it gives the family comfort in such a tragic event...then that is all that really matters.

    March 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  11. Daniel

    Everybody is dead.... what's the deal to be taken to Israel???

    March 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  12. David

    We import muslims and we get 911. Countries don't learn..

    March 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  13. The Dude

    If they want to be buried there they should go live there.

    March 21, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • Roye

      right – because where you live and where you are buried must be the same place, right? life = death, right?

      March 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • jew

      muslims Committed 9/11 and you don't trust jews??
      you need help amigo..

      by the way, Israel did warned US, check again!

      March 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
    • Laurent Martens

      Yoiu can go f**ck Santorum up the a$$

      March 21, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  14. Jen

    Trying to understand the stat: 40% of practicing Jews are buried in Israel ???

    March 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • The Dude

      Israel (Jews) knew about 9/11 but did not warn us.

      For that they should be wiped off the planet.

      Never trust a Jew.

      March 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • country

      I hope the FBI checks you out

      March 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • country

      that was @ stupid "dude"

      March 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • caroline

      A percentage of French mostly orthodox Jews don't want to be buried in France because antisemitism has always been quite high (esp. in southern France), gravestones vandalized with swastikas or smashed, and visitors to their loved ones grave sites are sometimes accosted and beaten or worse. Neo nazi violent instances towards minorities is higher in parts of Europe, including France.

      March 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Laurent Martens

      I think Bush new about 9/11

      March 21, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Laurent Martens

      to Caroline: Southern France, aka "Le Midi", was collaborating wholeheartedly with Hitler, just that you know, and fyi, that's the region where they had a sitting pope for the Roman Catholic Church for a couple centuries. Perhaps those two facts are not entirely separated, and then you read the comments here, and it all starts making sence.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • caroline

      @Laurent,merci for the history lesson on that region. One generation passes their bias to the next and so on and so on.

      March 22, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  15. ytuque

    At least for a Jew to be buried in Israel, the grave will not be desecrated by NeoNazis and Muslims which France has primarily the latter in large numbers.

    March 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Absolutely TRUE

      So, Jews are too scared to bury their dead in France and instead export their loved ones to Jew-only graves in Israel? Is that right??

      March 21, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
    • Laurent Martens

      Again, I know what I am talking about. Grave desecrations are not the doing of the Muslim population. Perhaps they jumped on the bandwagon, but that is pure speculation.

      March 21, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  16. Muneef

    It's just a matter of time before U.S. tires of Israel
    Israel doesn't know when to stop, and it could pay dearly as a result.
    By Gideon Levy

    March 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • HeyMama1

      This is not the place for that comment, you retard.

      March 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • rs1201

      you are such a loser arab muslim...you're embarrassed to death that one of your miserable people committed this unspeakable crime...so you're trying to deflect attention to the fact that your people are a bunch of murderers!!!!

      March 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Muneef

      He is not of ours as an Arab-Arab but rather he is of French-Arab as a home land country Algeria or the present hosting land...so maybe French up bringing and treatment of youth is wrong...recently last year France suffered much troubles of rebelling youth burning the streets and cars.... There must be mistreatment and suffering among those to commit such acts so who is here to be blamed the youth or the Gvt...?
      Beside the Palestinians whom you call a bunch or murderers are a bunch patriotics practicing self-defense towards liberation of their own lands...

      March 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Prayer changes all the Time. Pray for this one day and that the next.

      March 21, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Should have written, "Prayer changes all the Time. Pray for this thing one day and that thing the next."

      March 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Should have still yet written, "Prayer changes all the Time. Pray for this thing one day and that thing the next.day and keep on changing one's prayer in hopes of getting one being granted sooner or later."

      March 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Jesus

      - You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      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.

      Plus don't forget. 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!! .. .. .. ... .. .

      March 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • Schaz

      But you forget.

      Sometimes the answer to a prayer is "No."

      March 21, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  18. afrank

    No, i have not been to Israel, and it is the very last place i want to go to. infect, I wouldn't even want to die there!

    March 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Greg

      Well they wouldn't want a dick head like you polluting their soil, looser!

      March 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  19. Muneef

    My deep Condolences to the families of the dead students and hope the criminal will be cought to pay the price of his horrible crime towards the innocents...

    Now about the burial being in Israel is rightful act for the Israeli national families although I think it is for the Gvt is more of politics to claim the land and not give it up on such excuse of those buried one's.

    Never mind after all Enlish&British Christians were buried in colonies such as Aden and Egypt but still they left when it was time...

    March 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  20. Thinker23

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

    This is not possible as the name "Palestine" was first used by the Romans in the 1st Century AD. I'm afraid that you're confusing "Palestine" with "Philistine", dear.

    March 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • wait..

      what is the difference between those two? I was told one is derived from the other..

      March 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • Alison

      The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece.[13] Herodotus wrote of a 'district of Syria, called Palaistinê" in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley.[14][15][16][17][18][19] Approximately a century later, Aristotle used a similar definition in Meteorology, writing "Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them," understood by scholars to be a reference to the Dead Sea.[20] Later writers such as Polemon and Pausanias also used the term to refer to the same region. This usage was followed by Roman writers such as Ovid, Tibullus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Statius, Plutarch as well as Roman Judean writers Philo of Alexandria and Josephus.[21] Other writers, such as Strabo, a prominent Roman-era geographer (although he wrote in Greek), referred to the region as Coele-Syria around 10-20 CE.[22][23] The term was first used to denote an official province in c.135 CE, when the Roman authorities, following the suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, combined Iudaea Province with Galilee and other surrounding cities such as Ashkelon to form "Syria Palaestina" (Syria Palaestina), which some scholars state was in order to complete the dissociation with Judaea.[24][25]

      March 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Alison

      I think perhaps you are confusing historical fact with religious idealogy dear.

      March 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • HeyMama1

      That sort of confusion is epidemic these days. Can't people just GOOGLE some primary sources instead of relying on CNNcomment boards for their entire geo-political perspective......Gosh. Can we please get over this soon? Otherwise we should just give all of the Middle East back to the Persian Empire : )

      March 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.