In a solemn declaration last Thursday, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, relying on the insights of a distinguished committee of experts, ruled that some individual hostages are unequivocally deceased. The decree was based on compelling evidence presented to Rabbi Yosef, which left no room for doubt that these individuals had fallen victim to Hamas on October 7. The heart-wrenching news was delivered to their families over the weekend.
This halachic pronouncement carries significant implications. Families, now assured of the fate of their loved ones, can observe the mourning ritual of sitting shiva, even though the bodies remain captive and have not been laid to rest in a proper burial. Additionally, in cases where the murdered hostages were married, their wives are now recognized as widows, not as agunot, granting them the possibility of remarriage.
The ruling emerged from the deliberations of an exclusive, confidential committee comprising esteemed individuals such as Professor Ofer Marin, CEO of Shaare Zedek Hospital, Dr. Hagar Mizrahi from the Health Ministry, Dr. Chen Kogel, Director of the Pathology Institute, and intelligence officials. Convened shortly after October 7, the committee meticulously investigated the fate of each hostage. Through a comprehensive analysis of data and videos, it was determined that several hostages had tragically lost their lives. The committee collaborated with the Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Chief Rabbi of the IDF to communicate this information to the families.
Minister of Religious Services Michael Malchieli commented on the ruling, stating, “The chief rabbi’s ruling was facilitated following extensive and thorough discussions involving the heads of the security system, members of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, the Health Ministry, and the director-general of the ministry, Yehuda Avidan. This decision was made with special sensitivity in light of the circumstances and numerous consequences. All the employees of the ministry who were engaged in this painful matter extend their heartfelt support to the grieving families during this challenging time and offer condolences for the loss of their loved ones at the hands of the reprehensible Hamas perpetrators.”