|The burial of ashes - an emotionally loaded day|
Personal message from Adam Keller - to all friends and acquaintances and to
Following is a translation of the Hebrew message I have sent by WhatsApp and
Facebook to family and friends in Israel. I want to share this with people who
know me - personally or virtually - around the world, even if you cannot be
there in person.
Yours, Adam Keller
The burial of the ashes of Hava Keller (my mother) and Beate Keller (my wife)
will take place tomorrow, Monday, December 6, 2021, at 3:00 PM in the community
of Ma`ale Tzvia in the Gallilee, where my sister Yael Keller-Shoshani and her
All who are interested in paying homage to one or both of them, and consider it
important enough to travel to the Galilee for the purpose, are most welcome. I
would like to be notified in advance of the intention to arrive, by a private
message on WhatsApp or a phone call to 054-2340749.
The most convenient way to get there is to take the train from Tel Aviv to Haifa
and from there to Carmiel. Yaeli and her family will take care of picking up
everybody who comes, from the Carmiel railway station to where the ashes will be
buried in Ma`ale Tzvia.
Some explanatory words:
When a person dies and is brought for burial, the procedure is quick - usually
the funeral takes place within a few days. Especially in the State of Israel,
where most funerals are held according to Jewish religious law which emphasizes
the need to bury the dead as soon as possible. (Jewish law was created in hot
lands, long before there were refrigerators where a dead body could be kept
In Israel, cremation is uncommon, being very much contrary to Jewish religious
practice. A person`s wish to be cremated rather than buried is in effect a
political and social act of defiance against the religious establishment.
Aside from that, when a body is cremated, the family members eventually get the
ashes and then they have to decide what to do with them, and when to do it.
My mother, Hava Keller, passed away on the last day of 2019, and according to
her will her body was cremated. Before we could decide what to do with her
ashes, the Corona Virus crisis was upon us, with prolonged closures and major
disruptions of daily life.
At first we thought of scattering my mother`s ashes in the sea off the coast of
Tel Aviv that she loved. We had earlier scattered in the Mediterranean the ashes
of my father, Jacob Keller. In that case it was, at his request, off a specific
coast in Northern Israel where he had spent happy years in the 1950s.
However, with the delay caused by the Corona upheaval, eventually the family
decision tended in a different direction - to bury the ashes in the ground and
plant a tree above them (an olive tree seems most appropriate).
This idea is especially attractive due to the symbolic element that the young
tree will itself draw vitality from the ashes buried beneath it, which are an
The most suitable place to carry out the idea is Ma`ale Tzvia, where my sister
lives. This is a rural community with lots of open spaces where it is easy to
find a suitable place for burying the ashes and planting a tree. Yaeli and her
family can take care of the seedling and ensure that it does grow into a
beautiful tree worthy of her who is buried under it.
The idea of burying the ashes was formulated in the family circle already in
late 2020, but due to the corona period and all sorts of technical problems it
was not implemented.
Beate, my wife, took an active part in the family discussions, and she liked the
idea of burying the ashes and planting a tree.
Then, most sadly and painfully, on August 6 this year Beate herself passed away.
She had also asked to be cremated. The obvious solution was to hold a double
burial ceremony, to plant two trees in one location - and this is what we intend
to do tomorrow. In recent days, it was decided in the family circle to add a
third tree, in memory of my father Yaakov Keller - even though his ashes were
scattered in the sea.
We will not have a very elaborate ceremony. Me and Yaeli will say a few words,
and invite anyone else who wants to say something relevant. There will be a
recorded message from Beate`s daughter Jedida, who lives in Holland and cannot
be there in person (at the moment Israel bans all entry of foreign citizens to
its territory). The music which was part of the zoom memorial for Beate in
August will be heard again - the two pieces which Beate herself specified, in
the last days at Ichilov Hospital when she knew she was going to die, and the
piece later added by my cousin Boaz. And Yaeli found a piece which was a
favorite of our mother Hava. And then we proceed with the burial and tree
For the sake of those who cannot be present, we will make an effort to take
photos and make short videos which will be later spread. This is especially
important for the sake of Beata`s family members in the Netherlands, who
unfortunately will not be able to be physically present - but also for the sake
of friends in Israel who cannot take the time to travel northwards on a working
day, and the many friends that Beate and my mother had all over the world.
A few words about why Beate chose to ask to have her body cremated.
Beate was definitely Jewish. As a Jewish baby born under Nazi occupation in
1942, she was in very concrete danger in her early years and survived thanks to
families who risked themselves to hide her.
In the first years in her first marriage, when her husband Eddie was observant,
she actually maintained for his sake a Kosher household and lit candles on
Friday evenings (until after about five years, Eddie abandoned religion...).
Well, Beate was Jewish - but she vehemently refused to register as such in
Israel. She was not a Zionist and did not want to gain Israeli citizenship
according to the country`s Law of Return, but rather gain citizenship as the
wife of an Israeli citizen. (Obtaining Israeli citizenship in this way is
neither easy nor simple, it took several years ...).
In general, Beate shared with most Dutch Jews a very strong objection to the
registration of religion or ethnic origin in identity cards and official
documents. In the Netherlands there had been such a registration in the 1930s,
which greatly facilitated the Nazi hunt for Jews. (After the war the Netherlands
abolished this kind of registration.)
Since Beate was not listed as a Jew in any official documents, it is likely that
the Hevra Kadisha - the religious burial society which handles most burials in
Israel - would have refused to bury her.
Secular burial is possible in Israel - but it is a difficult and complicated
process and requires a lot of running around and struggles by family members in
the immediate aftermath of the death of their loved one. Beate, who knew full
well what a severe blow her death would be to me, wanted to spare me this
Compared to secular burial, the procedure of cremation is easy and simple. The
family needs simply instruct the hospital administration not to call the
religious burial society but rather contact the Aley Salechet (`Autumn Leaves`)
association which handles cremation. They would then arrive and take care of the
rest (after having received in advance the modest payment of NIS 12,000, about
When I recall the immediate aftermath of when I arrived at Ichilov Hospital with
Beate and left without her, how hard and painful that first week was, I am
grateful that she spared me the need to have in that week also to run around in
a desperate search for a secular burial location.
One last personal word: I`m afraid that the burying of the ashes will be a
difficult moment for me, opening the wounds that have not really healed. I am
very grateful to the many friends and family members who offer me their support
on this difficult but unavoidable moment.
Yours, Adam Keller