Have you ever been to a Jewish funeral?
I can walk you through the normal Israeli way of burial if you'd like.
Last Tuesday we were at this big cemetery in central Israel.
Relatives and friends of the deceased arrive on their own and then gather in this building.
There is a little time to greet the mourners and converse.
The body should be buried as soon as possible after death, preferably with 24 hours.
Then the shocking part comes, when they bring the body, wrapped in a white shroud, on a stretcher and put it on this bier. That's where I start crying.
Folks gather round while someone gives a eulogy.
The collar of the close family is cut by the Chevra Kaddisha (burial society) official.
The immediate relatives (male) recite the Kaddish prayer.
On the wall is written verse 7 of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) 12:
"And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."
Four mourners carry the stretcher out onto this wagon . . .
and the long walk to the far side of the sprawling cemetery begins.
The Orthodox Chevra Kaddisha man chants prayers and Psalms along the way.
The body is lowered into a deep grave, covered with a few concrete slabs, and then covered with the good earth of Israel.
Male people are welcome to shovel a bit of dirt.
But the main work is then quickly done by a young religious man with a turia (a big hoe).
The closest relatives say Kaddish again. El Malei Rachamim (God, full of mercy) is sung by the cantor.
A few people bring flowers but the more Jewish custom is for each to put a little stone on the grave.
And that's it, the end of a life.
My kids and I lingered around the fresh grave until a Bobcat drove up behind us and already started digging new holes.
Then the tractor drove in loaded with the concrete slabs.
Wow, they couldn't wait.
People are dying to get in to this cemetery.
Other cemeteries have run out of ground and are now burying people in multi-story fashion.
Thirty days after the burial the family returns for the ceremony to set the tombstone.
I must admit, the Jewish way of burial and mourning is very respectful and the ritual is supportive.
People say in Hebrew, "May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may you know only good news."
You are welcome to see the two previous posts on this subject.
Linking to ABC Wednesday.)