IDF plan has Jewish and non-Jewish soldiers buried in same section

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Under a proposed Israel Defense Forces guideline, soldiers who are not Jewish according to Jewish law would be buried in the same section as their Jewish comrades in arms, but in a different row.

The agreement on the proposal between Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and lawmaker Elazar Stern of the Hatnua party was reported July 7 in the Israeli media.

Following the agreement, Stern withdrew a bill proposed in the Knesset that would have required side-by-side burial.

Religious lawmakers objected to the bill, since it is forbidden under Jewish law to bury Jews and non-Jews in the same burial area.

The soldiers of other religious groups, including Muslims and Druze, usually are buried in the cemeteries of their communities.

The bill follows an April incident involving IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and a Memorial Day ceremony to honor the most recent Israeli soldier killed, in this case Yevgeny Tolochko.

At the Mount Herzl military cemetery, Gantz passed over the grave of Tolochko in a section set aside for those whose Jewishness is in doubt and placed his flag on the grave of another soldier.

Gantz later visited the family of Tolochko, who was killed in a training exercise in February, and apologized. — jta