Burial Societies Strike in Wake of Haifa Slaying

All of the country's Jewish burial societies (hevra kadishas ) will be on strike until 2 P.M. today to protest Sunday's murder of Benny Hesse, the director general of Haifa's Ashkenazi burial society.

Benny Hesse
Yaron Kaminsky

Haifa's hevra kadisha struck yesterday as well, until 6 P.M.

Rabbi Yisrael Rosenthal, who heads the Haifa society, told Haaretz that burial society workers are constantly being threatened due to their work, even though they only follow the policies set by the government. In particular, he said, families often object to their loved ones being buried in multilayered niches, a method necessitated by the government's refusal to allocate more land for cemeteries.

Hesse, as the society's director general, was the focal point for Haifa residents' unhappiness with the situation, which sometimes even forced them to bury their dead outside the city altogether, in Kiryat Ata. Six years ago, someone threw acid at him, and in another incident, the door of his house was set on fire. But police were unable to find the culprits in either case.

Hesse was buried yesterday evening, following a day-long legal dispute over the police's request to autopsy him. In the end, the court rejected the request, so police had to make do with an external examination only.

A friend of the family's, Yossi Schiff, said that Hesse had spent four decades working for Haifa's burial society. Before that, during his army service, he founded and headed the Northern Command's burial unit.