IDF to Allow Reform Rabbis to Officiate at Full Military Burials

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Israeli soldiers participate in a Memorial Day ceremony in Nahalat Yitshak Cemetery, Tel Aviv, in May. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Following a hearing in Israel’s High Court, the IDF on Thursday said that it would allow non-Orthodox clergy to officiate at burials with full military honors, according to media reports.

Under existing regulations, burials may be conducted by non-Orthodox officials but without such ceremonies as a wreath-laying, honor guard and an official military eulogy.

The decision came in response to a petition brought to the Court by Uri Regev on behalf of the Hiddush Association for Religious Freedom and Equality, which advocates for the Reform and Conservative movements, which claimed that non-Orthodox soldiers were discriminated against.

Negotiations between the two sides produced an agreement which enables families to choose the nature of the military funeral ceremony. However, the military would still retain the authority to deny certain requests under “extraordinary circumstances,” but promised to keep these to a minimum, Hiddush said.

For decades, the army required that soldiers be buried by an IDF rabbi in an Orthodox religious ceremony according to Jewish law. Although the IDF changed its orders in 2017, allowing families of fallen soldiers to determine whether to have a religious or civil funeral, it stipulated that such ceremonies would be denied the special military characteristics mentioned above.

The IDF is expected to publish the new regulations in the coming months.

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