A Grave Error: Woman Sues After Finding Stranger Buried in Her Plot

A Kiryat Malakhi woman has filed suit with the Ashdod Magistrate's Court seeking the immediate removal of a corpse that was mistakenly interred in a burial plot alongside her deceased husband and which she purchased years ago.

Yamna Shushan, the woman who filed the suit several days ago, is citing purchase and property rights in her argument before the court, which will have to weigh whether to order the removal of the remains currently occupying the plot. Shushan is also demanding NIS 50,000 in compensation for mental anguish.

The hevra kadisha religious burial society offered Shushan an alternative plot site not far from her husband, but she is steadfast in demanding to be buried in the spot for which she paid.

Officials at the Kiryat Malakhi religious council which oversees burial arrangements acknowledged that registration errors led them to believe that the reserved plot was available.

Shushan, 77, paid NIS 4,000 for the burial plot next to that of her husband in the Kiryat Malakhi cemetery 11 years ago. As a pensioner who spent 30 years working in a leather processing factory, Shushan scraped together the cash, which she paid in installments to the hevra kadisha.

In the lawsuit filed with the court, Shushan's attorney, Shirley Reif Shoshan, writes that her client discovered that another person had been interred in the burial plot when she went to visit the cemetery last summer.

Shoshan argues that while Jewish law forbids the removal of buried remains, there are extraordinary instances in which halacha permits such a relocation.

The lawsuit claims that Shushan's property rights have been violated, and that the burial of another individual in her burial plot constitutes an infringement on the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.

"They hurt me badly," Shushan said, "and I hope that the court will exact justice. I am not prepared to give up my burial spot, it is mine. Why is it that people here have to fight for a grave that belongs to them?"

Rabbi Yehuda Sheetrit, who heads the Kiryat Malakhi religious council, said that the mishap was an honest mistake explained by an error in the cemetery's plot registry. Sheetrit said that the deceased woman whose remains are interred in Shushan's plot was buried there because the site also lies next to the graves of her family.

Sheetrit said the council offered an alternative burial site just 30 centimeters away from her husband, but Shushan refused. He added that only a court decision could compel the burial society to relocate the woman's remains.