State Ups Funding for Non-religious Burial Practices

State informs High Court of budgets for secular burial services of NIS 5 million for the years 2011 and 2012, compared to NIS 300,000 allotted for this year.

The finance and religious services ministries have announced a dramatic increase in their budgeting for secular, so-called alternative burials in Israel. The decision comes in the wake of severe criticism the state received from the High Court of Justice on the matter.

The state has thus informed the High Court that it will provide budgets for secular burial services of NIS 5 million for the years 2011 and 2012 - this, in contrast to the NIS 300,000 that was allotted to the matter for the current year but has yet to be distributed among the secular burial societies that operate at public cemeteries.

Menuha Nahona, Kfar Sava's secular burial plot - Nir Keidar - August 30 2011
Nir Keidar

In January 2008, the Menuha Nehona burial society, which provides civil burial services, petitioned the High Court with a request to oblige the finance and religious services ministries to provide appropriate funding for civil cemeteries. The petition was based on a 1996 law that determines that any citizen who so desires is eligible for free civil burial services like those provided by the Hevra Kadisha religious burial society.

Menuha Nehona offers civil burial services in Be'er Sheva, Kiryat Tivon and Kfar Sava.

While the state has agreed to significantly up the budgets for secular burial services, it has not retracted its decision not to finance the paving of access roads to civil cemeteries - a decision Justice Asher Dan Grunis harshly criticized in the court.

"The success is temporary," said Menuha Nehona attorney Yifat Solel. "The state refrained from giving a commitment to fully finance the alternative-secular cemeteries."