Jerusalem’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern approved the burial of a Palestinian Muslim inside a Jewish cemetery after Muslim religious authorities declared he could not be buried inside a Muslim cemetery due to suspicions he had sold land in Jerusalem to Jews.
Ala’a Qarash was one of six people killed in a horrific collision between a truck and a minibus on Highway 90 in early November.
Mourners from Qarash’s family attempted to bring his body to Al-Aqsa Mosque last week for pre-burial prayers as per Muslim tradition but were prevented from doing so by Muslim protesters at the site, resulting in a fistfight. The protesters claimed that Qarash was a “traitor” who was involved in a real estate transaction with Jews several years ago. Several other mosques in Jerusalem followed suit, turning away the mourners with the body.
The mourners were then turned away by the cemetery in which members of Qarash’s family are buried, which also refused to set up a traditional mourners’ tent to receive guests. Qarash’s body was placed temporarily outside a Muslim cemetery in Nabi Salih, a village near Ramallah.
The incident comes as a result of a fatwa (religious ruling) made by Jerusalem’s mufti, Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, in July reiterating a previous ruling that any Muslim who sells land in Israel to a Jew will be considered a heretic, nonbeliever and traitor to God, Islam and homeland. The fatwa instructed Muslims to refuse to marry, attend the funeral of, allow to be buried in a Muslim cemetery or do business with any Muslim who acts in contravention of the fatwa.
Selling land in Israel to a Jew is illegal under Palestinian Authority law, incurring either the death penalty or, in less severe cases, imprisonment with hard labor.
The case was brought to Rabbi Stern’s attention by Im Tirtzu, an Israeli right-wing advocacy group. The rabbi issued an unusual Torah ruling, labeling Qarash a “righteous gentile,” ordering him to be buried in a section of the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem for those without religious faith.
“Since the Muslims themselves are unwilling to bury him, we must do something and right this wrong done to a man disgraced simply for his willingness to sell land to Jews,” the rabbi explained to Y-Net news on Friday. “We must give very positive treatment to righteous gentiles, and in this case this is someone who showed good will and was even willing to take a risk for the Jewish settlement.”
“We will do everything to bring Ala’a Qarash to a proper burial, and we will not allow disrespect of a man, be him Arab or Jewish,” Baruch Yadid, the head of the Palestinian desk of the right-wing Im Tirtzu NGO, told Ynet. “The freedom of expression, the freedom of property and the freedom of religion have all been hurt in this unfortunate case, and we must right this wrong.”