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More Dry Bones: Anthropology of Death in Israel

MORE DRY BONES

ALEX WEINGROD''S CONTRIBUTION TO THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF DEATH IN A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE:

In this chapter, I discuss Alex Weingrod's contribution to the anthropology of death and place his insights about the Jewish Israeli context into a broader, comparative perspective

Alex Weingrod made two significant forays into the field of the anthropology of death. The first was his book length monograph, The Saint of Beersheva (1990), a unique father-son collaboration that included documentary photos by Alex's son, Daniel. The second piece was a highly regarded article, Dry Bones: Nationalism and Symbolism in contemporary Israel(1995) and included in the collection The Best of Anthropology Today (Benthall 2002).

The Saint of Beersheva described how an ordinary grave of Rabbi Chaim Chouri, a new immigrant from the island of Djerba in Tunesia, became the focus of an annual, mass pilgrimage ("hiloula") for tens of thousands of North African Jews. Weingrod provided a classic ethnography of the hiloula. Woman would place their hands on the tomb, weep and, prostrate themselves all to absorb the special blessing ("baraka") from the holy man. Food and various liquids were placed directly on the grave to also absorb its special powers; hard candy and nuts were especially popular as they do not transmit ritual pollution. Sometimes, oil or scented water was poured over the grave and then smeared on faces and arms of the devotees. Disabled children were placed on the grave itself, in hopes that the zaddik would work a healing miracle. Gradually, the atmosphere in the graveyard became festive with ample, food, drink, dancing and even some belly dancing "all in order to the make the holy man happy". When some of the devotees began belly dancing, some members of the Chouri family objected.

Cemeteries are usually considered places of sorrow and somber remembrance. The festive atmosphere that Weingrod described, moreover, clashes sharply with traditional Jewish conceptions of the "honor due to the dead" ("kavod ha meit") in which the meeting with the dead is sad and serious. Nevertheless, anthropologists have long discovered cultures in which the emotional attitudes toward the dead is neither sad, nor somber but often a joyous "celebration of death" (Huntingdon & Metcalfe 1991). The significance of such celebrations of death was illuminated by French-Jewish anthropologist, Robert Hertz, who died at Verdun, during WWI and wrote the single most influential text in the anthropology of death (Hertz 1907; Abramovitch 2001; 2013). Hertz focused on the widespread custom of the "second funeral" or more correctly secondary treatment of the human remains, a practice found in places as diverse as Greece (Danforth 2004), Madagascar, Borneo (Huntingdon & Metcalfe) and late 2nd Temple Period. (Halili 2005). Typically, the body is buried in a relatively simple ritual while the bones are dug up later in a very elaborate ceremony. Hertz argued that the purpose of the double ceremony is to deal with the dual nature of the human person that is composed of a ephemeral body and an everlasting soul or spirit. Dead bodies are associated with ritual pollution and sorrow. The first funeral, literally and symbolically, seeks to deconstruct and dispose these polluting and sorrowful aspects. The second funeral serves to send the soul/spirit on its journey and initiate it into the realm of the ancestors, where it may function as a cultural resource watching over and guiding the living. The second funeral is the culminating rite of passage in the lifecycle of these ancestral cultures and hence may take on a joyful character. Note that the death anniversary pilgrimage described by Weingrod is called a "hiloula" which means a “wedding feast”, reflecting the mystical union of the holy man with the Divine and therefore resembles the secondary funeral described by Hertz.

It is interesting to recall that Jewish tradition has a discussion concerning the sadness or joyfulness of the second funeral. The Mishna discusses the question as to whether secondary funerals are inherently sad or happy in what may be considered an early contribution to the anthropology of emotions. In 2nd Temple Period, Jews would bury their dead and return at a later time to collect the bones and place them in family tombs or sarcophagi. (Halili 2005). The legal ("halakhic") question is whether one is allowed to collect a parent's bones on the intermediary days of festivals ("hol hamoed") when one is commanded to be happy. Rabbi Meir permits it since it is a matter of joy; while Rabbi Yossi forbids it as a source of mourning (Moed Katan 5:1). The Rabbinic dispute is remarkable since cultures tend to construct the secondary funeral with the now dry bones as either happy or sad but not both.

Allow me elaborate. In Malagasy Republic, secondary treatment of bones is widely practiced with the bones lodged in family tombs, wooden sarcophagi or even tree hollows. In my own ethnography (Abramovitch 1975a, 1975b, 1976), or the classic study of Maurice Bloch (1971), Placing the Dead, family members and villagers gather in the cemetery to dig up the bones, drink large amounts of alcohol and joyously celebrate the transition from a dead relative into a powerful ancestor. Mourners may even dance ecstatically carrying the bones wrapped in white cloth. Clearly, R. Meir was thinking of Madagascar-style celebration signaling an end to mourning when he permitted the ritual. (Block & Parry 1984). In contrast, in rural Greece, viewing the remains of the deceased is inevitably sad, with contact with the bones intensifying mourning. Danforth (1982) records the following lament that crystalizes the Greek view that mourning is interminable: "People sing songs. They sing to take the bitterness away. The bitterness does not go away." For Rabbi Yossi, seeing and touching a father's, or a mother's bones only heightened the sense of sadness and loss, as it does for Greek mourners (Danforth 1982) and there is nothing to celebrate in touching these dry bones.

Physical changes in the space of death

In The Saint of Beersheva. Weingrod described the physical changes that occurred in the cemetery area around the zaddik's resting place, which originally had been a standard municipal grave. A metal cupola that provided both shade and status was built along with benches to sit upon. Biblical verses were inscribed in large Hebrew letters that gave the gravesite a simple, but dignified look. Given the growing popularity of the pilgrimage, the family of Rabbi Chouri requested that the grave be move to a more prominent location. The religious authorities refused. One of the reasons given was that the souls of those buried next to zaddik benefited from his presence; any move would leave them bereft of his special blessing. Traditionally, a zaddik only gains in authority and mystical powers after death, recalling Hocart's famous dictum that the first king was a dead king (Hocart 1927). In a similar vein, we may say that the first zaddik was a dead zaddik.

The Saint of Beersheva was one of the very first ethnographies to document dramatic changes occurring within cemeteries in Israel. Ethnographers have long believed that mortuary ritual are the most stable aspects of a culture and resistant to change (Abramovitch 2013). Recent research, however, has challenged this view. One dramatic case concerns South Korea (Park 2010).

Until, the 1980's, death took place at home, followed by a funeral in a private ceremony in the family garden (mandang). Burial was done later in an auspicious site that was regularly consulted in times of misfortune. Cremation was a social taboo and identified as a practice of the former Japanese occupiers. With the past two decades, traditional burial has almost entirely disappeared. Funerals are now held in hospitals or in private funerals halls, followed by a public cremation. The ashes are then lodged in columbarium or scattered beneath tress in a Memorial Park. The severe shortage of land for cemeteries, the change in housing design which eliminated gardens and government policy all played a role in the change.

Similar dramatic changes are occurring in Israel. Until 1996, funerals were a monopoly of the religious authorities – burial societies (hevra kadisha) in cities and religious councils elsewhere. The only exception was for secular kibbutz. This religious hegemony meant that these ritual experts had exclusive control over funerals and burial plots. The traditional Jewish funeral was done quickly, simply, without any significant difference of status or gender with the cost was paid by Social Security. Yet, the Jewish funeral was exclusionary. Woman and children, even if widows and orphans, mothers and sisters, were allowed to play no role in the funeral ritual. Many secular Jews objected to the ritual of rendering one's garment which was often experienced as an unwanted intrusion into personal space or a micro example of the domination of secular Israelis by religious fanatics (Abramovitch 2010). In addition, the religious establishment was adamant in burying only people who Jewishness was not in question. The decision to deny burial created basis for further criticism and in the case of mother of a combat soldier would even reach the national press.

In 1996, Secular Burial Law was passed breaking the religious hegemony and guaranteeing the right of each person to be buried according to their wishes and conscience. A number of Secular Cemeteries were built under the auspices of the NGO "Menucha Nechona" first in Beersheva, then Tivon and most recently in Kfar Saba. Significantly, the phase “Menhucha Nechona” means “proper rest” and comes from the standard graveside prayer El Maleh Rachamin (“Lord Full of Compassion”] so that typically this innovative organization uses traditional phrase in the invention of a tradition. The law requires that a percentage of every cemetery be set aside for secular burial and this is only very gradually coming to be. The ultra orthodox groups who admit that the method is religiously acceptable, as yet refuse to allow it in their burial sections.

Another major change in the physical structure of cemeteries derived from environmental concerns, as in South Korea. Cemeteries take up an extraordinary amount of land that then becomes dead, unusable space. At the current rates of mortality, large tracts of Israel would become graveyards. Alternative solutions to deal with this ecological crisis were urgently needed. Two Israeli architects, Uri Ponger and Tuvia Sagiv, one secular and one religious, working together developed new cemetery designs. The first option they developed called, "Sanhedrin burial" or "wall burial" drawing on the ancient Rabbinic burial caves of Beir Shearim in which individuals were buried in niches one above the other. This approach was approved by the religious council and Ministry of Religion, not out of environmental concerns but because Sanhedrin burial reduced the amount of ritual pollution in the Holy Land. The system ultimately allowed for ten people to be buried in the space of one traditional “field burial”. In addition, they created other new options e.g. for spouses to be buried in the same grave, one on top of the other but separated by required amount of earth. Social Security now pays only for this time of Sanhedrin burial and one must pay if one wishes field burial. Currently, the main Jerusalem cemetery which serves for religious and secular Jews has walls burial five floors high that requires specialized machinery to place the body in its niche.

The wall burial allowed for greater ease of access, shade (no small concern in the often oppressive heat of the holyland), reduced cost of headstone with more aesthetic contouring. As one supporter but it, “High-rise necropolises offer a greener way of dense thousands of people can be buried in a sort of hotel for the deadburial and a dignified appearance to comfort mourners.”

Wall burial significantly changed the ritual and emotional context of funerals and memorials. There is a very different emotional feeling standing around an open grave as opposed to being in front of a towering, impersonal wall. In earth burial, the gaze in down and in as people take turn to shovel earth on the grave; in wall burial, the gaze is up and away, as the public has no active role in the service. No one receives and lays out the corpse in the grave, undoes the last three "ties", there is no shoveling of the earth onto the grave and only a tiny ledge upon which to place stones or candles. In one place, access road runs right next to the burial wall. Despite the enormous difference in funerals, overall, the new approach has been widely accepted

Other solutions included the construction of multi-storied cemetery

Another new institution dealing with death rituals is the first, full service, for profit funeral home, called Aleh Shalechet ("Autumn Leaves"). A full discussion of their activities is beyond the scope of this chapter, but most notably they do provide cremation at a secret location. Their website includes a list of traditional Jewish texts (Genesis 18:27; I Samuel 31:12; II Chronicles 21:19) to show that cremation is not foreign to the Jewish Heritage and provides a list of eminent Jews who chose cremation, such as Albert Einstein. Their first facility was burned down by ultra orthodox extremists but soon after a new facility was opened. They provide many alternatives for what to do with the ashes from sea burial to turning them into diamond pendant. They also provide advice on planning “do it yourself” funerals, memorial events and provide practical and spiritual logistics by a lists of professionals.

The unfolding funeral revolution reflects broader social changes in Israeli society. The “do it yourself funeral” exemplifies the move from the values of collectivism and uniformity toward individualism and personal expression. The eroding of religious monopoly of funerals and rise of secular and alternative burial is indicative of greater acceptance of diversity in Israeli society. A similar unofficial revolution is taking place in weddings. Although, there is no official secular marriage, increasing numbers (perhaps as high as 40%) marry in an unofficial ceremony, or go abroad for a civil marriage which is subsequently recognized in Israel, or following trends in Western Europe, do not get married at all. The religious hegemony of these rites of passage is undermined. Ironically, the circumcision ritual, brit mila, which is not supervised by any religious authority, is still very widely practiced even by the most devoted secularists.

Paradoxically, the Green Party is politically insignificant in Israel elections, yet environmental concerns have a high degree of acceptance. It remains to be seen whether environmental concerns will play an increasingly role in future death rituals.

Finally, the rise of private, for profit funeral home and cemeteries, clearly reflects a shift from a communal, even socialist ideology toward a capitalist one. As one of my informants, willing to pay tens of thousands of shekels for the burial plot with a view said, “Beautiful things in life cost money; so, too, a good place in death.”

More Dry Bones

In Dry Bones, Weingrod described the nationalistic, Israeli obsession the reburial of human remains from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel. Almost every iconic Zionist figure, originally buried abroad, was subsequently reinterred in Israel including socialist leader Moses Hess (1930), Theodore Herzl (1950), Hanna Senesh (1950) and Vladimir Jabotinski (1963) but also 23 Moroccan Jews who drowned en route to coming to Israel, four Moroccan holy men and even an unsuccessful attempt to return the bones of the Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav. Although Weingrod was primarily interested in exploring the use of bones for purposes of ideology and nationalism, the ceremony of re-internment can also be seen as a second funeral of the joyous Madagascar type in which these figures who died in exile, return home to become Ancestors as analyzed by Hertz.

.Weingrod also described the described bitter conflict at archeological sites over the use of dry bones between archeologists, who want to study them and ultra orthodox Jews, who wish to immediately rebury them.

These clashes have if anything intensified in recent years and arguably the most intense area of sectarian conflict in contemporary Israel. In the period 2010-2 alone, there were numerous violent protests by ultra orthodox that included:

1. Violent attempts to block the construction of new fortified Emergency Room at Barzilai hospital, Ashkelon because it lay on the grounds of a cemetery which archeologists interpreted as a Hellenistic cemetery and which ultra orthodox claimed as possibly Jewish. Construction was halted and then restarted.

2. Riots at the alleged desecration of graves during excavation in old Jaffa for an apartment complex and luxury hotel in which police were physically attacked and garbage bins torched. A Habad Rabbi, Binyomin Lerer was attacked and his house ransacked because of his links to the project (8/8/11). The leaders conceded that even if the bones were not Jewish they should not be moved lest it lead to desecration of Jewish graves in Israel and abroad. A mass funeral for dozens of crates of bones taken from the Jaffa site was held in Jerusalem and buried in Haredi Moshav of Yesodot (29/3/11). Israel Antiquities Authority claimed the bones were pagan and included pig bones. Drivers and cars were attacked. Forest fires deliberately set, along with attempts at preventing the work of firefighters (20/5/10).

3. Attacks were made on construction of a new train track in Yavne (30/5/12)

4. Large receptacle containing artifacts from 1000-500BCE were burnt and destroyed in a dig near Afula

5. Six Ultra orthodox arrested (30/6/12) for disrupting infrastructure work near tomb of Prophet Habakuk

6. In contrast, the construction work of the Light Railroad in Jerusalem revealed a couple of Jewish burial caves. A potential explosive situation was avoided when the company consulted with Atra Kadisha’s leader, Rabbi Dovid Schmidel who designed an above ground structure around the burial cave with concrete slabs and large metal air pipes which diverts the impurity. The project was delayed for another six months but the solution proved durable.

The threat of massed violent protest is so palpable that a Jerusalem-based archeologist told me that if human bones are discovered in a burial cave, near Jerusalem, the archeologist abandons the site. Another senior physical anthropologist told me with ironic humor: “We finally know the answer to the question, “Who is a Jew?” If your bones are found in Israel, you must be Jewish!”

Why have struggle over dry bones became the prime focus of the ultra orthodox.

The clash between ultra orthodox Jews and archeologist is usually perceived in terms of a power struggle between conflicting ideologies, reflecting the larger macro-level political conflict about values and way of life, which has more to do with political science than anthropology. But following Weingrod’s insights, I believe, anthropology has something fresh to offer. Ultra orthodox are not the only ethnic group to clash with secular authorities and archeologists over dry bones. Traditional peoples in Australia, America and elsewhere in the recent decades have had overt and even violent clashes. Many of the clashes focused on the return of skeletal and human remains from museums. In a number of high profile cases, American Indian tribes and Australian aborigines (Fforde, Hubert & Trumbull 2002) were successful in having remains repatriated from Museum collections and subsequently buried in a traditional manner. Australian aborigines have been moderately successful in repatriating and reburying bones beginning with Tasmanian Museum in 1976. Well over a thousand remains and sacred object have been returned in the following three decades, but an estimated ten thousand remain. More recently, clashes similar to those in Israel have occurred during archeological excavations. The most famous clash concerned the so-called “Kennebeck man” (Thomas 2000). An almost complete skeleton was accidentally discovered on the banks of the Columbia River in 1996 and was considered a unique find of great significance. The Umatilla tribe, however, claimed the skeleton as belonging to one of their ancestors under the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. Research revealed that the remains were among the oldest ever found (perhaps as old as 9,510) and anatomically most resembled the indigenous people of Japan, the Ainu. The tribe offered to have genetic testing but this was not possible to perform. After eight years of intense controversy, the American Courts ruled against the tribe claiming that their link was not genetically justified.

In other cases, Museums voluntarily returned the bones of Indians who were massacred as an explicit act toward healing (Thorton 2002). In UK, Druid group demanded the return of Neolithic remain and while this was refused, they were allowed into the Avebury Museum to perform special healing rituals over the remains of their alleged ancestors.

Using comparative perspective, the ultra orthodox in Israel seem less like a fanatical sect but instead are acting like a “indigenous people” who consider any skeleton discovered on ancestral territory to be those of an ancestor. One may say that it is act of finding the dry bone which is what makes the spirit of the deceased into an ancestor. The historical context is irrelevant as are the scientific arguments of the archeologists. To return to the theme of ritual pollution, in Jewish law, the dead body is the archetypal source of ritual pollution. In preparing the corpse one purifies the body but it is only burial in the earth which provide ultimate purification, just as death is said to atone for one’s sins.The clash over dry bones gives an operational distinction between secularist and ancestral world views. For secularists, the bones are objects f scientific curiosity; the ultra orthodox, theu are sacred embodiments of the ancestors themselves. Contact with these bones is dangerous and numinous. Disrespect for the bones can evoke the wrath of the dead.

As Weingrod wrote ‘the bones are the past, the ancestors; those who disturb the bones are disturbing the ancestors” (Weingrod 1990: 312).

http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/aboriginal-remains.html

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International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. N. J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes (Editors) Pergamon, Oxford. pp. 3267-70.

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Huntingdon, R., & Metcalf, P. (1991). Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual. (2nd edn.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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MORE DRY BONES

ALEX WEINGROD''S CONTRIBUTION TO THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF DEATH IN A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE:

In this chapter, I discuss Alex Weingrod's contribution to the anthropology of death and place his insights about the Jewish Israeli context into a broader, comparative perspective

Alex Weingrod made two significant forays into the field of the anthropology of death. The first was his book length monograph, The Saint of Beersheva (1990), a unique father-son collaboration that included documentary photos by Alex's son, Daniel. The second piece was a highly regarded article, Dry Bones: Nationalism and Symbolism in contemporary Israel(1995) and included in the collection The Best of Anthropology Today (Benthall 2002).

The Saint of Beersheva described how an ordinary grave of Rabbi Chaim Chouri, a new immigrant from the island of Djerba in Tunesia, became the focus of an annual, mass pilgrimage ("hiloula") for tens of thousands of North African Jews. Weingrod provided a classic ethnography of the hiloula. Woman would place their hands on the tomb, weep and, prostrate themselves all to absorb the special blessing ("baraka") from the holy man. Food and various liquids were placed directly on the grave to also absorb its special powers; hard candy and nuts were especially popular as they do not transmit ritual pollution. Sometimes, oil or scented water was poured over the grave and then smeared on faces and arms of the devotees. Disabled children were placed on the grave itself, in hopes that the zaddik would work a healing miracle. Gradually, the atmosphere in the graveyard became festive with ample, food, drink, dancing and even some belly dancing "all in order to the make the holy man happy". When some of the devotees began belly dancing, some members of the Chouri family objected.

Cemeteries are usually considered places of sorrow and somber remembrance. The festive atmosphere that Weingrod described, moreover, clashes sharply with traditional Jewish conceptions of the "honor due to the dead" ("kavod ha meit") in which the meeting with the dead is sad and serious. Nevertheless, anthropologists have long discovered cultures in which the emotional attitudes toward the dead is neither sad, nor somber but often a joyous "celebration of death" (Huntingdon & Metcalfe 1991). The significance of such celebrations of death was illuminated by French-Jewish anthropologist, Robert Hertz, who died at Verdun, during WWI and wrote the single most influential text in the anthropology of death (Hertz 1907; Abramovitch 2001; 2013). Hertz focused on the widespread custom of the "second funeral" or more correctly secondary treatment of the human remains, a practice found in places as diverse as Greece (Danforth 2004), Madagascar, Borneo (Huntingdon & Metcalfe) and late 2nd Temple Period. (Halili 2005). Typically, the body is buried in a relatively simple ritual while the bones are dug up later in a very elaborate ceremony. Hertz argued that the purpose of the double ceremony is to deal with the dual nature of the human person that is composed of a ephemeral body and an everlasting soul or spirit. Dead bodies are associated with ritual pollution and sorrow. The first funeral, literally and symbolically, seeks to deconstruct and dispose these polluting and sorrowful aspects. The second funeral serves to send the soul/spirit on its journey and initiate it into the realm of the ancestors, where it may function as a cultural resource watching over and guiding the living. The second funeral is the culminating rite of passage in the lifecycle of these ancestral cultures and hence may take on a joyful character. Note that the death anniversary pilgrimage described by Weingrod is called a "hiloula" which means a “wedding feast”, reflecting the mystical union of the holy man with the Divine and therefore resembles the secondary funeral described by Hertz.

It is interesting to recall that Jewish tradition has a discussion concerning the sadness or joyfulness of the second funeral. The Mishna discusses the question as to whether secondary funerals are inherently sad or happy in what may be considered an early contribution to the anthropology of emotions. In 2nd Temple Period, Jews would bury their dead and return at a later time to collect the bones and place them in family tombs or sarcophagi. (Halili 2005). The legal ("halakhic") question is whether one is allowed to collect a parent's bones on the intermediary days of festivals ("hol hamoed") when one is commanded to be happy. Rabbi Meir permits it since it is a matter of joy; while Rabbi Yossi forbids it as a source of mourning (Moed Katan 5:1). The Rabbinic dispute is remarkable since cultures tend to construct the secondary funeral with the now dry bones as either happy or sad but not both.

Allow me elaborate. In Malagasy Republic, secondary treatment of bones is widely practiced with the bones lodged in family tombs, wooden sarcophagi or even tree hollows. In my own ethnography (Abramovitch 1975a, 1975b, 1976), or the classic study of Maurice Bloch (1971), Placing the Dead, family members and villagers gather in the cemetery to dig up the bones, drink large amounts of alcohol and joyously celebrate the transition from a dead relative into a powerful ancestor. Mourners may even dance ecstatically carrying the bones wrapped in white cloth. Clearly, R. Meir was thinking of Madagascar-style celebration signaling an end to mourning when he permitted the ritual. (Block & Parry 1984). In contrast, in rural Greece, viewing the remains of the deceased is inevitably sad, with contact with the bones intensifying mourning. Danforth (1982) records the following lament that crystalizes the Greek view that mourning is interminable: "People sing songs. They sing to take the bitterness away. The bitterness does not go away." For Rabbi Yossi, seeing and touching a father's, or a mother's bones only heightened the sense of sadness and loss, as it does for Greek mourners (Danforth 1982) and there is nothing to celebrate in touching these dry bones.

Physical changes in the space of death

In The Saint of Beersheva. Weingrod described the physical changes that occurred in the cemetery area around the zaddik's resting place, which originally had been a standard municipal grave. A metal cupola that provided both shade and status was built along with benches to sit upon. Biblical verses were inscribed in large Hebrew letters that gave the gravesite a simple, but dignified look. Given the growing popularity of the pilgrimage, the family of Rabbi Chouri requested that the grave be move to a more prominent location. The religious authorities refused. One of the reasons given was that the souls of those buried next to zaddik benefited from his presence; any move would leave them bereft of his special blessing. Traditionally, a zaddik only gains in authority and mystical powers after death, recalling Hocart's famous dictum that the first king was a dead king (Hocart 1927). In a similar vein, we may say that the first zaddik was a dead zaddik.

The Saint of Beersheva was one of the very first ethnographies to document dramatic changes occurring within cemeteries in Israel. Ethnographers have long believed that mortuary ritual are the most stable aspects of a culture and resistant to change (Abramovitch 2013). Recent research, however, has challenged this view. One dramatic case concerns South Korea (Park 2010).

Until, the 1980's, death took place at home, followed by a funeral in a private ceremony in the family garden (mandang). Burial was done later in an auspicious site that was regularly consulted in times of misfortune. Cremation was a social taboo and identified as a practice of the former Japanese occupiers. With the past two decades, traditional burial has almost entirely disappeared. Funerals are now held in hospitals or in private funerals halls, followed by a public cremation. The ashes are then lodged in columbarium or scattered beneath tress in a Memorial Park. The severe shortage of land for cemeteries, the change in housing design which eliminated gardens and government policy all played a role in the change.

Similar dramatic changes are occurring in Israel. Until 1996, funerals were a monopoly of the religious authorities – burial societies (hevra kadisha) in cities and religious councils elsewhere. The only exception was for secular kibbutz. This religious hegemony meant that these ritual experts had exclusive control over funerals and burial plots. The traditional Jewish funeral was done quickly, simply, without any significant difference of status or gender with the cost was paid by Social Security. Yet, the Jewish funeral was exclusionary. Woman and children, even if widows and orphans, mothers and sisters, were allowed to play no role in the funeral ritual. Many secular Jews objected to the ritual of rendering one's garment which was often experienced as an unwanted intrusion into personal space or a micro example of the domination of secular Israelis by religious fanatics (Abramovitch 2010). In addition, the religious establishment was adamant in burying only people who Jewishness was not in question. The decision to deny burial created basis for further criticism and in the case of mother of a combat soldier would even reach the national press.

In 1996, Secular Burial Law was passed breaking the religious hegemony and guaranteeing the right of each person to be buried according to their wishes and conscience. A number of Secular Cemeteries were built under the auspices of the NGO "Menucha Nechona" first in Beersheva, then Tivon and most recently in Kfar Saba. Significantly, the phase “Menhucha Nechona” means “proper rest” and comes from the standard graveside prayer El Maleh Rachamin (“Lord Full of Compassion”] so that typically this innovative organization uses traditional phrase in the invention of a tradition. The law requires that a percentage of every cemetery be set aside for secular burial and this is only very gradually coming to be. The ultra orthodox groups who admit that the method is religiously acceptable, as yet refuse to allow it in their burial sections.

Another major change in the physical structure of cemeteries derived from environmental concerns, as in South Korea. Cemeteries take up an extraordinary amount of land that then becomes dead, unusable space. At the current rates of mortality, large tracts of Israel would become graveyards. Alternative solutions to deal with this ecological crisis were urgently needed. Two Israeli architects, Uri Ponger and Tuvia Sagiv, one secular and one religious, working together developed new cemetery designs. The first option they developed called, "Sanhedrin burial" or "wall burial" drawing on the ancient Rabbinic burial caves of Beir Shearim in which individuals were buried in niches one above the other. This approach was approved by the religious council and Ministry of Religion, not out of environmental concerns but because Sanhedrin burial reduced the amount of ritual pollution in the Holy Land. The system ultimately allowed for ten people to be buried in the space of one traditional “field burial”. In addition, they created other new options e.g. for spouses to be buried in the same grave, one on top of the other but separated by required amount of earth. Social Security now pays only for this time of Sanhedrin burial and one must pay if one wishes field burial. Currently, the main Jerusalem cemetery which serves for religious and secular Jews has walls burial five floors high that requires specialized machinery to place the body in its niche.

The wall burial allowed for greater ease of access, shade (no small concern in the often oppressive heat of the holyland), reduced cost of headstone with more aesthetic contouring. As one supporter but it, “High-rise necropolises offer a greener way of dense thousands of people can be buried in a sort of hotel for the deadburial and a dignified appearance to comfort mourners.”

Wall burial significantly changed the ritual and emotional context of funerals and memorials. There is a very different emotional feeling standing around an open grave as opposed to being in front of a towering, impersonal wall. In earth burial, the gaze in down and in as people take turn to shovel earth on the grave; in wall burial, the gaze is up and away, as the public has no active role in the service. No one receives and lays out the corpse in the grave, undoes the last three "ties", there is no shoveling of the earth onto the grave and only a tiny ledge upon which to place stones or candles. In one place, access road runs right next to the burial wall. Despite the enormous difference in funerals, overall, the new approach has been widely accepted

Other solutions included the construction of multi-storied cemetery

Another new institution dealing with death rituals is the first, full service, for profit funeral home, called Aleh Shalechet ("Autumn Leaves"). A full discussion of their activities is beyond the scope of this chapter, but most notably they do provide cremation at a secret location. Their website includes a list of traditional Jewish texts (Genesis 18:27; I Samuel 31:12; II Chronicles 21:19) to show that cremation is not foreign to the Jewish Heritage and provides a list of eminent Jews who chose cremation, such as Albert Einstein. Their first facility was burned down by ultra orthodox extremists but soon after a new facility was opened. They provide many alternatives for what to do with the ashes from sea burial to turning them into diamond pendant. They also provide advice on planning “do it yourself” funerals, memorial events and provide practical and spiritual logistics by a lists of professionals.

The unfolding funeral revolution reflects broader social changes in Israeli society. The “do it yourself funeral” exemplifies the move from the values of collectivism and uniformity toward individualism and personal expression. The eroding of religious monopoly of funerals and rise of secular and alternative burial is indicative of greater acceptance of diversity in Israeli society. A similar unofficial revolution is taking place in weddings. Although, there is no official secular marriage, increasing numbers (perhaps as high as 40%) marry in an unofficial ceremony, or go abroad for a civil marriage which is subsequently recognized in Israel, or following trends in Western Europe, do not get married at all. The religious hegemony of these rites of passage is undermined. Ironically, the circumcision ritual, brit mila, which is not supervised by any religious authority, is still very widely practiced even by the most devoted secularists.

Paradoxically, the Green Party is politically insignificant in Israel elections, yet environmental concerns have a high degree of acceptance. It remains to be seen whether environmental concerns will play an increasingly role in future death rituals.

Finally, the rise of private, for profit funeral home and cemeteries, clearly reflects a shift from a communal, even socialist ideology toward a capitalist one. As one of my informants, willing to pay tens of thousands of shekels for the burial plot with a view said, “Beautiful things in life cost money; so, too, a good place in death.”

More Dry Bones

In Dry Bones, Weingrod described the nationalistic, Israeli obsession the reburial of human remains from the Diaspora to the Land of Israel. Almost every iconic Zionist figure, originally buried abroad, was subsequently reinterred in Israel including socialist leader Moses Hess (1930), Theodore Herzl (1950), Hanna Senesh (1950) and Vladimir Jabotinski (1963) but also 23 Moroccan Jews who drowned en route to coming to Israel, four Moroccan holy men and even an unsuccessful attempt to return the bones of the Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav. Although Weingrod was primarily interested in exploring the use of bones for purposes of ideology and nationalism, the ceremony of re-internment can also be seen as a second funeral of the joyous Madagascar type in which these figures who died in exile, return home to become Ancestors as analyzed by Hertz.

.Weingrod also described the described bitter conflict at archeological sites over the use of dry bones between archeologists, who want to study them and ultra orthodox Jews, who wish to immediately rebury them.

These clashes have if anything intensified in recent years and arguably the most intense area of sectarian conflict in contemporary Israel. In the period 2010-2 alone, there were numerous violent protests by ultra orthodox that included:

1. Violent attempts to block the construction of new fortified Emergency Room at Barzilai hospital, Ashkelon because it lay on the grounds of a cemetery which archeologists interpreted as a Hellenistic cemetery and which ultra orthodox claimed as possibly Jewish. Construction was halted and then restarted.

2. Riots at the alleged desecration of graves during excavation in old Jaffa for an apartment complex and luxury hotel in which police were physically attacked and garbage bins torched. A Habad Rabbi, Binyomin Lerer was attacked and his house ransacked because of his links to the project (8/8/11). The leaders conceded that even if the bones were not Jewish they should not be moved lest it lead to desecration of Jewish graves in Israel and abroad. A mass funeral for dozens of crates of bones taken from the Jaffa site was held in Jerusalem and buried in Haredi Moshav of Yesodot (29/3/11). Israel Antiquities Authority claimed the bones were pagan and included pig bones. Drivers and cars were attacked. Forest fires deliberately set, along with attempts at preventing the work of firefighters (20/5/10).

3. Attacks were made on construction of a new train track in Yavne (30/5/12)

4. Large receptacle containing artifacts from 1000-500BCE were burnt and destroyed in a dig near Afula

5. Six Ultra orthodox arrested (30/6/12) for disrupting infrastructure work near tomb of Prophet Habakuk

6. In contrast, the construction work of the Light Railroad in Jerusalem revealed a couple of Jewish burial caves. A potential explosive situation was avoided when the company consulted with Atra Kadisha’s leader, Rabbi Dovid Schmidel who designed an above ground structure around the burial cave with concrete slabs and large metal air pipes which diverts the impurity. The project was delayed for another six months but the solution proved durable.

The threat of massed violent protest is so palpable that a Jerusalem-based archeologist told me that if human bones are discovered in a burial cave, near Jerusalem, the archeologist abandons the site. Another senior physical anthropologist told me with ironic humor: “We finally know the answer to the question, “Who is a Jew?” If your bones are found in Israel, you must be Jewish!”

Why have struggle over dry bones became the prime focus of the ultra orthodox.

The clash between ultra orthodox Jews and archeologist is usually perceived in terms of a power struggle between conflicting ideologies, reflecting the larger macro-level political conflict about values and way of life, which has more to do with political science than anthropology. But following Weingrod’s insights, I believe, anthropology has something fresh to offer. Ultra orthodox are not the only ethnic group to clash with secular authorities and archeologists over dry bones. Traditional peoples in Australia, America and elsewhere in the recent decades have had overt and even violent clashes. Many of the clashes focused on the return of skeletal and human remains from museums. In a number of high profile cases, American Indian tribes and Australian aborigines (Fforde, Hubert & Trumbull 2002) were successful in having remains repatriated from Museum collections and subsequently buried in a traditional manner. Australian aborigines have been moderately successful in repatriating and reburying bones beginning with Tasmanian Museum in 1976. Well over a thousand remains and sacred object have been returned in the following three decades, but an estimated ten thousand remain. More recently, clashes similar to those in Israel have occurred during archeological excavations. The most famous clash concerned the so-called “Kennebeck man” (Thomas 2000). An almost complete skeleton was accidentally discovered on the banks of the Columbia River in 1996 and was considered a unique find of great significance. The Umatilla tribe, however, claimed the skeleton as belonging to one of their ancestors under the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act. Research revealed that the remains were among the oldest ever found (perhaps as old as 9,510) and anatomically most resembled the indigenous people of Japan, the Ainu. The tribe offered to have genetic testing but this was not possible to perform. After eight years of intense controversy, the American Courts ruled against the tribe claiming that their link was not genetically justified.

In other cases, Museums voluntarily returned the bones of Indians who were massacred as an explicit act toward healing (Thorton 2002). In UK, Druid group demanded the return of Neolithic remain and while this was refused, they were allowed into the Avebury Museum to perform special healing rituals over the remains of their alleged ancestors.

Using comparative perspective, the ultra orthodox in Israel seem less like a fanatical sect but instead are acting like a “indigenous people” who consider any skeleton discovered on ancestral territory to be those of an ancestor. One may say that it is act of finding the dry bone which is what makes the spirit of the deceased into an ancestor. The historical context is irrelevant as are the scientific arguments of the archeologists. To return to the theme of ritual pollution, in Jewish law, the dead body is the archetypal source of ritual pollution. In preparing the corpse one purifies the body but it is only burial in the earth which provide ultimate purification, just as death is said to atone for one’s sins.The clash over dry bones gives an operational distinction between secularist and ancestral world views. For secularists, the bones are objects f scientific curiosity; the ultra orthodox, theu are sacred embodiments of the ancestors themselves. Contact with these bones is dangerous and numinous. Disrespect for the bones can evoke the wrath of the dead.

As Weingrod wrote ‘the bones are the past, the ancestors; those who disturb the bones are disturbing the ancestors” (Weingrod 1990: 312).

http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/aboriginal-remains.html

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[Weingrod’s main interest was the use of bones for purposes of nationalism, the linking of the past with the present, but he did provide a succinct and excellent summary of traditional Jewish attitudes to human remains in general and human bones in particular. Unlike most cultures in which there is substantial delay between death and burial, Jewish burial is done quickly, ideally the same day. In Jerusalem, ultra orthodox will seek to bury within hours and even at night, a practice prohibited elsewhere. Note that the Biblical basis for rapid burial derives from the verse, “You shall not allow a condemned man to hang overnight.” One Rabbinic interpretation understood that death is punishment for sin as illustrated in a poetic midrash: Adam, the first man appears before a dying person who calls out , “It is because of you that I must die!” To which Adam, the First Man, replies, “It is true that I sinned one great sin for which I was punished. But you my child, have sinned many, many sins and presents the dying one with their list of sins, concluding, “There is no death without sin.”

Since, metaphorically, all humans are in a sense condemned persons, they, too, should not be left unburied overnight. It is interesting that this ‘death as punishment ideology contrasts with the older Biblical view in which death is simply a natural part of the natural order. Another contrast between Biblical attitude toward death and contemporary Rabbinic practice include embalming. Both Jacob and Joseph were embalmed but this chemical preservation of the body (which gained in favor in USA during the American Civil War) and open casket funerals were strictly forbidden as not in keeping with the honor due to the dead.

Weingrod notes that any body part is treated with the respect due to the whole body. Practically, this means not just that any bone fragment requires proper burial but that amputated limbs must be interred as well, ideally in the future burial plot of the rest of the body, indicating the crucial significance of the symbolic unity of the body. This attitude also underlies the once violent opposition to medical autopsy by ultra orthodox. All religious Jews oppose autopsy in principle both for it not being in keeping with honor due to the dead, but also because often parts of the body as kept in pathology lab, without permission and not released to the family for burial. The most recent scandal in the Abu Kabir in which whole organs of hundreds of body parts, including those of celebrities were illegally kept, shows that such fears are not merely fantasies. Nevertheless, autopsy is not the focus of conflict; excavated bones are.