(November 21, 2018 / JNS) Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Aryeh Stern authorized the burial of a Muslim inside Jerusalem’s Har HaMenuchot Jewish cemetery after Muslim religious authorities declared he could not be buried in a Muslim cemetery because he may have sold land to Jews.
Two weeks ago, Ala’a Qarash was killed along with six other people in a lethal collision between a trunk and a minibus on Highway 90.
When members of his family attempted to bring his body to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount for traditional pre-burial prayers, Muslim protesters calling Qarash a “traitor” for alleged involvement in a real estate transaction with Jews several years ago confronted the family, and a fist fight erupted.
As news of the accusations spread, additional Jerusalem mosques refused to allow the body in for burial rituals.
The cemetery where other Qarash family members are buried refused to receive the body or to erect a traditional mourners’ tent, and he was ultimately temporarily buried outside a Muslim cemetery in Nabi Salih, a town near Ramallah.
Jerusalem’s mufti, Erima Sa’id Sabri, issued a fatwa in July that any Muslim who sold land in Israel to a Jew would be deemed a heretic, nonbeliever and traitor to God, Islam and the homeland. He ordered all Muslims to utterly reject land-sellers, refusing to marry, bury, do business with or attend the funeral of such people.
Selling land to Jews in Israel is also illegal under Palestinian Authority law, and is punishable by hard labor or even the death penalty.
The family’s excommunication was finally brought to the attention of the Im Tirtzu Israeli advocacy group, who brought the case to Rabbi Stern. In a very rare ruling, the rabbi deemed Qarash a “righteous gentile,” and ordered that he be buried in the section of Jerusalem’s Har HaMenuchot Jewish cemetery, in a section designated for those without religious faith.
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