Two Orthodox Jews Remanded on Suspicion of Grave Robbing

Two Orthodox Jews from Rishon LeZion have been remanded in custody for 15 days on suspicion of grave robbing.

A Rehovoth magistrate’s court identified them today as David Aronfeld, 34, a driver and gravedigger employed by the Hevra Kadisha Burial Society in Rishon LeZion and Meir Agassi, who works in the religious township of Bnai Brak. Police are continuing their investigation to determine whether other persons were implicated.

Aronfeld and Agassi are suspected of having illegally removed the skeleton of Teresa Engelovitz from her grave in the Rishon LeZion Jewish cemetery last Thursday and transporting it in Agassi’s truck to Ramle. The skeleton of a woman, positively identified by police forensic experts as Engelovitz, was found Sunday discarded ina Moslem cemetery in Ramle. The remains were re-buried in the original grave Tuesday by order of the Supreme Court.

The case has stirred a conflict between civil and religious authorities. The local rabbinate in Rishon LeZion ordered Engelovitz’s body exhumed several months after the deceased was buried a year ago on grounds that she had not been converted to Judaism in her native Rumania according to strict Orthodox practice. A court injunction prevented the rabbinate’s order from being carried out.

After the skeleton was identified, Israel’s Chief Rabb is and the local rabbinate deplored the apparent grave robbery but insisted that the remains could not be re-buried in the Jewish cemetery. The Supreme Court overruled their objections.

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