Tzipi Livni’s Movement MK Elazar Stern is proposing an amendment to the law governing military cemeteries, whereby all the fallen IDF soldiers will be buried adjacent to existing graves. According to Stern, the amendment is intended to prevent discrimination in military cemeteries.
MK Stern, who used to serve as the IDF Head of Human Resources and is currently a member of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, told Israel Radio: “It is inconceivable that our youth, especially those who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, would be good enough to fight alongside the rest of us, and, sadly, also to die alongside the rest of us, but they’re not good enough to be buried among us.”
“This discrimination inside the military cemeteries shames all of us,” continued Stern, “and my bill says that if you were killed in the service of the Jewish nation, you’ll be buried as a Jew.”
MK Stern suggested that it could be said that one’s willingness to sacrifice one’s life in defense of Israel is the “purest conversion process imaginable.”
“But it can also be argued that we should do it based on ‘darkei shalom’ (things we do not because they are prescribed halachically, but because they maintain a peaceful relationship with the gentiles).”
“What was appropriate in diaspora is clearly appropriate here,” MK Stern concluded, saying his message was national, social and, “in my opinion, religious as well.”
On Friday, Israel radio exposed the fact that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz placed a flag on the grave of Col. Solomon (Moni) Nitzani in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl, following a decade old tradition whereby the chief of staff puts a flag on the grave of the last IDF soldier to die before Memorial Day.
Except that, unfortunately, Col. Nitzani was not the most recent IDF casualty, it was Yevgeni Tolochki, who died two months ago and was buried in the non-Jewish section of the same cemetery.
The IDF Spokesperson’s response, that the ten year old tradition has pertained exclusively to the central, meaning Jewish section, has done little to improve matters.
National kindergarten teacher MK Zehava Gal-On, who also serves as Chair of the left wing Meretz, was quick to condemn the IDF faux pas: “The loss of a loved one is equally difficult and painful to Jews and non-Jews alike,” she said. “There was no need to add the pain of alienation to the grief of the family, based on an ugly discrimination between bloods, and contrary to fundamental democratic values.”
MK Stern, an IDF insider, said he discussed the problem with military decision makers and told them they could either make it easier for IDF recruits to convert to Judaism, or change the rules regarding separate burials.
Although he graduated from a High School Yeshivah, Elazar Stdern is not especially liked in religious circles. Back in 2005, Stern was assaulted at the Western Wall by individuals who protested his leading role in expelling Jews from the Gaza strip.