JERUSALEM (Jul. 6)
A new spat between two parties in Israel’s coalition government has erupted over the burial of one of the victims of last week’s terrorist bus attack, who was not Jewish according to traditional definitions.
Olga Chaikov, a Soviet immigrant killed when terrorists attacked a bus in Jerusalem on July 1, was ordered buried in a special cemetery section reserved for “questionable Jews” after officials of the hevra kadisha, or burial society, consulted Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Kolitz.
The consultation, during Chaikov’s funeral service last Friday, followed a call made to the burial society from a neighbor of the deceased woman who asserted that Chaikov was not Jewish.
Hevra kadisha officials told reporters they questioned family members, who freely confirmed that this was indeed the case.
On Tuesday, after the story came to light in the press, the secularist Meretz bloc announced it would propose a bill for the creation of “civil cemeteries.”
The fervently Orthodox Shas party promptly responded that it would fight against such a bill, if it “conflicts with halachah,” or traditional Jewish law.
During the funeral, the burial society officials sought to skirt the recital of the Mourner’s Kaddish. But Rabbi Nissim Ze’ev, a deputy mayor and the senior Shas representative on the City Council, insisted on saying the prayer.
Ze’ev later explained that even if there were some halachic question regarding the deceased woman’s Jewishness, there was “no reason why a minyan of Jews should not say Kaddish.”
Knesset member Ran Cohen, the chairman of Meretz’s Knesset faction, said it was sickening that a person who had immigrated to the Jewish state and died because she was a Jew — at least in the eyes of her murderers–should not be buried with full Jewish honors.