Bahai News - Bomb Victim Refused Burial
Case Highlights a Burning Controversy: Who Is a Jew?

Bomb Victim Refused Burial

A 15-year-old Russian immigrant paid the ultimate price for coming to the Jewish state—his life was taken in last week’s terrorist bombings in Jerusalem.
     Then Grisha Pesahovic’s body was turned away from cemetery after cemetery before finally being buried Sunday in a plot owned by the Baha’i church.
     The situation underscored questions about the inflexibility of religious doctrines governing the Jewish state and reflected problems facing many of the almost 800,000 immigrants who have arrived since 1990—many of whom are only part Jewish.
     “It was an absurd, tragic spectacle that doesn’t dignify the state of Israel,” said Immigration Minister Yuli Edelstein, himself an immigrant from the former Soviet Union.
     Pesahovic was refused burial because his maternal grandmother was not Jewish, which meant he and his mother, Olga, were non-Jews according to the branch of Orthodox Judaism that dictates Israel’s burials, marriages and divorces.
     A Greek Orthodox burial ground offered to take his remains in a civil service. But at the service on Friday, a priest instead insisted on a religious funeral.

Mom: I’ll Bury Him Myself “No, no Priest,” wept Olga, according to Maariv. “He lived as a Jew in the Land of Israel. My son Grisha was not a Christian.”
     But the priest was insistent, and after an hour’s debate, his father, Yvgeny, exclaimed: “Give me a shovel or a spade, and I’ll bury him alone—I don’t care where!”
     While the dispute buzzed, the casket was taken back to city hall where social workers passed out drinks to mourners waiting in the parking lot.
     The studious boy who spoke four languages and knew everything about the Beatles was finally buried in a Baha’i plot abutting a Jewish cemetery. The Baha’i movement, headquartered in Haifa, allowed his burial on humanitarian grounds, but stressed that no precedent was being set.
     “I did not even know they were not fully Jewish,” said Tali Valkov, a family friend of the Pesahovics. “What difference does it make? He was a sweet, funny boy and his mother’s only son.”

©Copyright 1998, Associated Press (ABC News)

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