Chief Rabbinate, burial society, National Insurance Institute and Religious Services Ministry agree to let non-Jews collect the bodies of those who die on the weekend, saving grieving families from being fleeced by private ambulance companies.
A sad problem that has occurred every weekend for the past 60 years appears to have been solved, after the Chief Rabbinical Council decided on Monday to allow the Hevra Kadisha burial society to collect the bodies of people who die over the course of Shabbat. Non-Jewish employees will handle the tasks involved.
Jewish law does not consider collecting the bodies of the dead to be “pikuach nefesh” — a life-saving measure that justifies violating the Sabbath — therefore, families of individuals who die at home on the weekends have been forced to have their loved ones taken away through private ambulance services, which charge thousands of shekels, or wait until Saturday evening, when Shabbat exits, with the body in the house.
On Monday, with the encouragement of Chief Rabbi David Lau, the Chief Rabbinate approved a plan by which the Hevra Kadisha would operate a special hotline on weekends for relatives of the deceased. The hotline and the process of collecting the bodies will all be handled by non-Jews, thereby keeping the sanctity of the Sabbath intact.
The plan calls to establish call centers in Carmiel in northern Israel, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba. Ambulances deployed throughout each of these areas are expected to arrive to collect the deceased within three hours of the call.
A number of public entities worked together to reach the welcome solution, including the National Insurance Institute, which is expected to fund it, the Religious Services Ministry, the Hevra Kadisha Forum and the Chief Rabbinate.
According to one official involved in the initiative, both the NII and the Treasury have agreeing in principle to fund the program.
A Hevra Kadisha official told Israel Hayom that “it happens every week.
The Hevrat Kadisha was unavailable, so [people] would look for the [company] with the best ad, and at the end of the process would suddenly get a bill for thousands of shekels for a [service] that is provided for free by the government.
“We’re solving a 60-year-old problem that repeats itself every weekend. The worst thing was that without the work of Hevra Kadisha on weekends, all sorts of cheats would latch onto the bereaved families and charge them thousands of shekels and stir anger at us for no reason,” the official said.
According to the official, Director General of the National Insurance Institute Professor Shlomo Mor-Yosef has joined the efforts to solve the matter, and those involved hope that the call centers, which are slated to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will put an end to families being fleeced.