Thousands of Jars of Human Remains to Be Buried in Mass Grave

New program, 'An Honorable Burial,' begins Monday, involving jars of tissues and organs amassed at the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv.

Eight thousand jars of human remains are about to be given a proper burial, under a national program unveiled Sunday by the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv.

The new program, "An Honorable Burial," will begin on Monday and will involve jars of tissues and organs amassed at the institute from 2000 through the end of 2011.

The program is being carried out with the permission of the Justice Ministry.

Meir Broder, a lawyer for the Health Ministry, said that "the process will be undertaken for all deceased persons' tissues, in cases where a microscopic sample of the tissue or organ is enough for evidence purposes, and there is no need to keep the whole tissue or organ at the institute."

Microscopic samples of tissues will be stored for a period of 25 years, as required by law, after which they constitute legal evidence, according to Broder.

The burial process will start on May 20, as per the wishes of affected families.

Families who wish to have their loved ones' tissues and organs buried together with relatives, instead of in a mass grave, will be permitted to do so. They will be allowed to dig up a relative's grave at a cost of thousands of shekels, accompanied by religious experts, social workers and psychologists.

No known owners

In most cases in which families do not express a preference, and in the case of tissues that have been in the center since before 2002, remains will be buried in mass graves, as will organs and tissues without known owners.

The remains have been classified according to the religion of the deceased: Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of no religious affiliation. Tissue of deceased Jews will be buried at Hayarkon Cemetery.

A Health Ministry information telephone line, manned by religious experts and health professionals, will open on Monday and will provide information to the public about the program for four days. Those interested in getting information can call *5400.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem on Thursday, a family began the first legal proceeding of its kind against the National Institute of Forensic Medicine for allegedly storing the tissue of a deceased relative without the family's permission.

The institute denies that there are any families who were not made aware that their relatives' tissues and organs were being kept in its laboratories. Since 2002 it has informed family members about the storing of organs and tissues by asking them to sign consent forms.

In December 2011, an article in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported that the institute had in its possession the organs and tissues of several deceased celebrities, including TV personality Dudu Topaz and former IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan. According to the report, in some cases this was done without the consent of the families.