(JTA) — A chief rabbi of Jerusalem allowed a Palestinian man to be buried in a Jewish cemetery following his body’s exclusion by imams over his sale of real estate to Jews.
Aryeh Stern, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel’s capital, ruled this week as a rabbinical judge that Alah Kirsh may be buried at a Jewish cemetery as an exception because he was a “righteous gentile,” Ynet reported Friday.
Kirsh and five others were killed in a traffic accident on Nov. 4. His family sought to bury his body at their Muslim cemetery in eastern Jerusalem, but the imams turned them away because he had been accused of selling real estate in that part of the capital to Jews several years ago. The family was not allowed to bring Kirsh’s body to the Al Aqsa mosque and was forbidden to pitch a mourner’s tent and receive guests there, as is the Muslim custom.
Ekrima Said Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, cited a 1935 fatwa, or religious Muslim edict, issued by his predecessor, Amin al-Husseini.
A publicly anti-Semitic leader of Arab Israelis and ally of Nazi Germany, al-Husseini wrote that “anyone who sells a home or land to Jews will not receive a Muslim burial.” Basing a new fatwa on the old one, Sabri wrote: “Whoever sells to the Jews in Jerusalem is not a member of the Muslim nation, we will not accept his repentance and he will not be buried in the Muslim’s cemetery.”
Kirsh’s body was placed temporarily outside a Muslim cemetery in Nabi Salih, a village near Ramallah. Stern ruled that he may be buried at a section of the Jewish cemetery at Har Hamenuchot reserved for people without religion.
“Since the Muslims will not bury him, we must correct the distortion of justice that results in unjust humiliation of a man whose only sin was being prepared to sell land to Jews,” Stern wrote. “It is incumbent on us to honor a righteous gentile, and in this case a person who showed good will and was willing to take risks for the Jewish settlement.”
The case was brought to Stern’s attention by Im Tirtzu, a right-leaning pro-Israel advocacy group.