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Civil Society

Some people say you can measure the civility of a society from the way it treats its dead.

Israel is no exception.

Historically, the Jewish people have always tried to care for their departed ones.

There is a well-known story concerning a leading British supermarket that was planning a new store in York in
northern England. It transpired that the plot selected was the site of an ancient Jewish cemetery, dating back 1,000 years. Despite the fact that no one could trace their family roots back to that burial ground, the Jewish community objected to the construction. After a lengthy debate, the supermarket was indeed constructed there, but on stilts, so the bodies would in no way be desecrated.

Israelis do not cremate their dead. It is a taboo. The body must enter the ground whole.

That is why when you view the aftermath of a bomb attack in Israel you will automatically see religious-looking men wearing official uniforms wandering around the area of the attack, alongside the doctors and police officers. Even the most secular of the secular call their voluntary role “holy work.”

Forgive the graphic nature of the next sentence. These men are on the scene looking for body parts, from entire limbs to pieces of skin. All to ensure the dead are buried in the most respectful way possible.

Israel’s war dead are never paraded down the middle of the high street in some display of military or political pride, faces uncovered. No guns are fired, nor do angry mobs attack the police at Israeli funerals.

Tragically, over the years, several Israeli nationals, usually soldiers, have been kidnapped and killed in the most brutal manner, particularly by Hizbullah. In those cases Israel was prepared to release hundreds of Palestinian and other terrorists from jail in return for a couple of bodies.

Just to honor the dead.