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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid