News / Europe

    Increasingly, French Jews Opt for Burial in Israel

    FILE - The Jewish cemetery of Strasbourg-Cronenbourg, in Strasbourg, eastern France, April 14, 2002.
    FILE - The Jewish cemetery of Strasbourg-Cronenbourg, in Strasbourg, eastern France, April 14, 2002.
    Lisa Bryant
    France has Europe's largest Jewish population, but many do not want to stay there forever. The last decade has seen a steady rise in the number of French Jews opting for burial in Israel. The reasons are many, but one of the biggest factors is space. In some French cemeteries, Jewish-only burial sections are rapidly filling up.

    Franck Darmon is only 35, but he already knows where his bones will lie. Not in his native France, but in Israel.

    He says that when you compare a cemetery in Israel - with the blue sky, the sun and the white tombstones - with one in France, with its grey surroundings, it is very distressing. The soul does not have the same type of rest.  

    Darmon is not the only French Jew drawing this conclusion. And not just because of the weather. For the living and the dead here, Israel is becoming the final destination.  

    Some are snapping up cemetery plots in the Holy Land early on, as insurance against premature death and sharply rising prices. Others are unearthing loved ones from French graveyards for reburial in Israel, sometimes years after their death. Their decisions are being shaped by a confluence of religious, financial and practical considerations.  

    Darmon, who manages a funeral home in northeastern Paris, is seeing the changes in his books. Roughly a third of his business heads to Israel. There are others who would like to be buried there, but can not afford it.  

    Just how many Jews end up in Israel is hard to say. Israeli airline El Al - which carries the caskets - will not disclose the figures. Undertakers, along with the Paris Consistory, representing the Jewish community here, say the numbers are growing steadily and amount to hundreds each year.

    They reflect Israel's larger pull for French Jews, who are immigrating there by the thousands for religious and emotional reasons. For Ariel Kandel, who heads the Paris office of the Jewish Agency for Israel, it makes more sense for Jews to head to the Holy Land alive.

    He says the point of Israel isn't to get buried there, but to live there and build the country. It's something positive.  

    But these days, burial decisions are being driven by necessity, as well as by choice. Jewish-only sections in some cemeteries around Paris - where most French Jews live - are filling up. That is true for celebrated cemeteries like Pere Lachaise… and for the area's largest cemetery, in the French suburb of Pantin.  

    Now, Darmon says, cemeteries are beginning to have mixed-faith plots. So those who are scrupulous about Jewish laws prefer to be buried in Israel. Others are finding that family burial plots are not forever in France. Many have fixed term leases that are rapidly running out. And authorities can exhume and burn the remains of untended graves, a practice that goes against Jewish beliefs.

    That, says Orthodox rabbi Mendel Azimov, is scaring many French Jews.

    "Burial is not a lifetime. Burial can be one day thrown out from the cave…so every day there are dead people that are carried over to Israel," said Azimov. "My grandparents were buried in Israel, my mother is buried in Israel…everybody that has the possibility financially. So every night, EL Al has bodies going off to Israel."  

    Funeral homes are quickly responding to this new reality. Across town, undertaker Menahem Perez says his funeral home, Sportes, has bought up 100 plots at a cemetery near Jerusalem. Sportes ships about 130 caskets to Israel yearly, including exhumed bodies for reburial there.  

    Burial in Israel is a few thousand more euros, Perez says, but it is worth it.  Because Israel is forever. With less red tape, and daily El Al flights from Paris, it is also much easier and quicker to be buried there today than just a decade ago.   

    Perez heads to his next assignment - at a hospital outside the capital.  Family and friends crowd around a casket set out in a small room.   

    Men chant passages from the Torah. An old woman cries in a corner. A policeman seals the coffin before it is lowered into a waiting van. The door snaps shut, and the body is gone, on its way to Israel and sunshine .

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.