Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon reached an agreement with Hatnuah MK Elazar Stern that Jewish and non-Jewish soldiers who die in combat will, from now on, be buried together in one cemetery section, though they will be designated separate rows.
The decision was the result of an ongoing public campaign led by Stern (who previously served as the head of the Israel Defense Forces Personnel Directorate) to change the existing situation whereby IDF soldiers who are not officially recognized as Jews are not buried in designated military cemetery sections together with their fellow soldiers, though they often serve in the same units and die in the same battles.
Following Ya'alon's approval of the new policy, MK Stern decided to shelve a bill that he had submitted on the issue, which was supposed to be put up for a vote at a meeting of the Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. Had the bill not been shelved, it would likely have won the support of the majority of the committee.
The Habayit Hayehudi faction, however, voiced strong opposition to the initiative, with Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan arguing that "the result of such an initiative would be a huge rift among the people of Israel."
"Can anyone imagine a situation where a mother asks to exhume her Jewish son from his grave because a non-Jew was to be buried next to him? Well, that is precisely what will happen if this proposal is approved," Ben-Dahan said.
In response, MK Stern lauded the defense minister's decision to support the issue.
"An important and just correction was made here today to a wrong that had been ongoing for many years," Stern said. "I am glad that it was done by agreement and that there was no need for legislation, because the very aim of the bill was to bring about a more respectful, unifying reality."