Spotlight

Why is it recommended to order services ahead of time?

According to National Insurance records, close to a third of the population purchase a burial plot while they are still alive. A significant number of these people are unaware that the burial plot is only part of the problem, while the rest are left with many unanswered questions.

In order to better understand this, it is recommended you read the answer to the question "What is the significance of 'free burial'?"

By ordering a full package of funeral services ahead of time, you are ensuring a number of things. Firstly, you are giving a clear and precise message with regard to the type of funeral you wish for yourself (cremation or burial), your desired funeral location and the kind of separation event or ceremony you wish. Furthermore, you will most likely save yourself a lot of cost by virtue of the fact that you have purchased a package.

In addition, there is a professional body that accompanies the family and enables relatives to focus on their loss, rather than on purchases and check lists.

By ordering funeral services ahead of time, you have the time to do market research and examine alternative options available without the pressure of purchasing at the last minute a plot that may not suit your needs.

Since the decision of the State of Israel to have all cemeteries (in the major cities this has already been implemented) moved to a layered-burial system (various kinds of cramped graves that save space), the number of plots that remain for field burial is quickly decreasing. For those who wish to ensure a field burial for themselves and their family, there is no choice but to purchase it today.

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What is the difference between a funeral home and a cemetery?

Most countries in the western world have a clear separation of the funeral home as the body that works with the family of the deceased and the cemetery as the final resting place of the deceased.

A funeral home employs a funeral director who is responsible for taking care of the family and the body of the deceased. The job of the funeral home is to provide the family with the relevant information (burial laws and regulations, the psychological stages of mourning, current alternatives, religious guidelines pertaining to the family's religious orientation, etc.), together with physically taking care of the body, generally tying up loose ends with the cemetery or crematorium, transporting the body, and any other services the family chooses.

A funeral director's training involves a year- or two-year course and a period of internship, which varies from country to country. The funeral home specializes in providing services and helps the family in its most difficult hours.

The cemetery is where the body is laid to rest, so naturally the cemetery authorities are experts is "real estate" and they deal exclusively in the sale of burial plots.

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What is the meaning of a "no-cost" burial?

The answer to this question is complex. The State of Israel aspires to provide burial services at no-cost to all its citizens. However, we are all witnesses to the fact that this is not the case. What is the reason for this disparity?

Firstly, we need to distinguish between the State's definition of burial and the citizens' definition of burial. The State divides the burial into three parts: the place of burial, expenses on the day of the burial, and any new additional costs that were previously not included. To complicate matters even more, the state then divides these three parts even further. For example, it distinguishes between plots that are free and those that require payment; plots that are supervised by the state and for which the state determines their cost and those for which the funeral company has the rights to determine their cost; and services that have a set rate and can be charged (e.g. transportation of the body by the funeral company and those which the funeral company is not permitted to provide (e.g. tombstones). However, the average citizen regards the total cost of the funeral as a financial burden and does not make the distinctions that the state makes.

Every citizen is entitled to a free burial in the city he resides, on a plot of land chosen exclusively by the funeral company. Any change in the plot that is required or requested is subject to payment. The rates vary between thousands of shekels and tens of thousands of shekels. The burial company usually only operates during specific hours, so that in most cases the family must rely on a private ambulance service to transport the deceased. Even in cases when the burial company does transport the deceased, any irregularities are subject to payment (e.g. transporting the deceased from an area outside their place of residence, a passageway through a building or synagogue, adding people to make up a minyan for escorting the deceased, etc.). Magen David Adom, for example, charges hundreds of shekels for determining a death. A tombstone is certainly not included in the service and to make a general estimation, without taking into account those who pay for a burial plot, a "free" burial costs in the region of 10,000 shekels.

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What is a farewell rite?

 A farewell rite is an expression of farewell in your own unique way, which closes the life circle in an appropriate and respectful fashion. This expression of farewell allows you to carry on your life with the knowledge that you have properly separated from a loved one, in a way that reflects his life and yours. The farewell rite, at which you and your loved ones are at the center, accompanies the burial and/or cremation and gives people the opportunity to share their deepest feelings. The way you choose to conduct your personal farewell rite will greatly affect you and your loved ones and will be engraved in your memory forever.

Aley Shalechet takes care of all the accompanying arrangements and logistics, assists in choosing a suitable farewell rite, accompanies and guides you in handling all the details, and takes care of all the various issues, both professionally and sensitively. By taking care of all your arrangements, you are free to focus on the most important aspect at this time – coping with your mourning.

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What are the environmental aspects of burial and cremation?

Burial has a significant influence on all aspects of the quality of the environment and public health.

 

The scarcity of land

A senior official from the Planning and Development Department of the Israel Land Administration succinctly described the land problem in Israel: “…Among those that gobble up the land and with which we are all familiar, are cemeteries…The large demand of land for the purpose of building a cemetery is a worrying figure. Every year …about 17 acres of land are allocated for burial… cemeteries sprawl about 74 acres, growing with the required separation areas surrounding them (in accordance with the Planning and Building law) to about 222 acres.”

Even if the State of Israel moved to density burial systems/saturated burial  (and we do not need to remind you of the difficulties involved in implementing these methods), the actual saving will not even reach up to half the use in land reserve. We would like to point out that that the cremation solution safeguards Israel’s precious land reserves, beyond the saving on various burial costs.

The following quote, by the director of the Israel Land Administration about the problem of burial plots, is also from the aforementioned report: “Our future, the future of our children, and future generations, is dependant on the way we relate to burial plots in our small country. Cemeteries serve those alive more than they serve the dead. Therefore, we need to preserve and save every strip of land as best we can, so as to ensure that future generations can continue to live in Israel with the same conditions and quality that we enjoy today.” Today, the State of Israel is losing close to 0.12 acres of land per day to burial land.

Contaminated ground water

One of the main studies pertaining to pollution of the environment is the law prohibiting the burial of mammals. This law was enforced with the aim of preventing contamination of Israel’s drinking water sources. The law regulations are especially strict in the case of mammals, and the Office of Environment Protection makes sure to enforce the law in the area of on-shore aquifers. Regretfully, the results of human burial are not different, and it is clear that the concentration of cemeteries that lie above the various aquifers (particularly the ones above the coastal shore’s aquifer) are harming our water no less than the burial of animals.

The reason for this law and its enforcement serves a major requirement: the protection of the public. Mammals carry diseases, hormones, antibiotics and germs that might be harmful to man, and no one wants the responsibility of contamination seeping into our clean ground water. Mammals are treated with antibiotics and various medications that do not decompose, and here too, there is no body that is prepared to take responsibility for these chemicals coming into contact with ground water.

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, its water sources have not grown, but the population has grown eight fold. The expected growth will only worsen the country’s water economy. The number of annual deaths, which since the establishment of the State has amounted to thousands, today amounts to tens of thousands (close to 40,000 deaths a year) and is forecast to increase by one fourth.

Water contamination is a situation in which concentrates of certain substances (not necessarily poisonous) gradually increase until the water can no longer fulfill its role. Due to the fact that our water reserves are small and demand is getting higher the amount of substance needed to contaminate is low. To the best of our knowledge, until now, our water is not routinely tested for any remnants of medicines, hormones, antibiotics, etc.

As another body that observes the contamination of ground water, the Ministry of Infrastructure determined that: “This is a highly sensitive area and in charting the shore aquifer we can distinguish between areas that are more sensitive and areas that are less sensitive.”

In an article published on Ynet in March 2009, “50% of hormone and medicine remnants secreted into waste water survive the waste-cleansing process. The substances that remain in the water are used for agricultural crop irrigation and they seep into the ground water,” according to the head scientist at the Office for Environment Protection. The substances can cause a variety of severe health conditions. “These substances can find their way into fruit and vegetables,” he warns.

Waste cleaning machines do not manage to clear the waste of all the hormone, medicine and antibiotic remnants secreted by man. “Between 40-60 percent of the medicines and hormones – the source of which is usually the contraceptive pill – manage to survive the waste-cleansing processes.

One of the more notable studies on the subject is that of Dr Dror Avisar, head of the hydrochemistry lab at Tel-Aviv University, who observed waste samples both before and after they had gone through the waste-cleansing process: “Medical studies have already revealed that the presence of hormones in amounts of one nano-gram per liter of waste, is health damaging,” Avisar explained in an interview with ynet. “We found in our tests (of treated wastewater) tens of nano-grams per liter of waste.”

In his study, Avisar coins the phenomenon “new generation pollutants” – those that come from the remnants of human medicines and even from veterinary medicines that are given to animals. In this group there are also pollutants such as hormones, pain relievers and psychiatric medication.

According to Avisar’s research, these remnants can “survive” for a 24-hour period, a week, and even a number of weeks, depending on the temperature and the composition of the active substance. “The finding of antibiotic remnants in ground water and upper waters (water in ground-level pipelines) constitute a public health hazard and can be a catalyst for morbidity and health disorders,” said Avisar.

Avisar emphasized that antibiotic medication is prescribed, and as such, is designed to remain in the body for a limited period of time. “To date, there are no medical studies on the long term effects of antibiotics. However, it is clear that we would not wish for antibiotics to penetrate our bodies for long periods of time, even if only in small doses. It is worth pointing out that unlike treated waste water, which is treated in particular ways, there is no official body that treats the land of a cemetery.

A study in the contamination of hormone findings in ground water by the Laboratory for the Study of Hormones at the Veterinary Services Department of the Ministry of Agriculture reads: “Use of a hormone test in ground water to determine the source of contamination (GLOWA funding): asteron, estradiol and testosterone reach the environment from two main sources – human and animal. Wastewater contains, among other things, ethinyl estradiol, which comes from contraceptive pills, and estriol from pregnant women. Therefore, gauging these two hormones points to a human source of contamination.”

In 2007, the Water Authorities gave a statement to the media that said: “…Another finding is male and female hormones (estrogen and testosterone) in ground water. These types of hormones are found in the excrement of cows and this study shows that they are also finding their way into ground water at a depth of 46m below ground level.”

 

Hormonal treatment in menopausal women, especially treatment commencing close to menstrual cessation, is likely to reduce morbidity and improve the quality of life. Today, hormonal treatment is credited with a renewal of youthfulness all over the world, due to the fact that it can help solve many problems that stem from a lack of estrogen at menopause. Antibiotic treatments, various hormonal treatments, chemotherapy treatments, radioactive medication and many more substances enter our bodies with the sole purpose of saving our lives.

 

Despite all this, the various water institutes and corporations carry out water tests and have found a long list of pollutants, however they are not looking for antibiotics, hormones and new-generation pollutants.

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