Israel court allows transgender woman’s cremation

This undated photograph shows May Peleg, an Israeli transgender woman. Israel's Supreme Court has cleared the way for the cremation of Peleg, who committed suicide, rejecting an appeal by her religiously observant family for a traditional Jewish burial. May Peleg killed herself this month and asked in her will to be cremated. Peleg's family is ultra-Orthodox, a deeply conservative community, and Jewish law forbids cremation.

This undated photograph shows May Peleg, an Israeli transgender woman. Israel's Supreme Court has cleared the way for the cremation of Peleg, who committed suicide, rejecting an appeal by her religiously observant family for a traditional Jewish burial. May Peleg killed herself this month and asked in her will to be cremated. Peleg's family is ultra-Orthodox, a deeply conservative community, and Jewish law forbids cremation. Ofrit Assaf via AP

JERUSALEM (AP) — The body of an Israeli transgender woman who committed suicide will be cremated despite her ultra-Orthodox family’s wishes, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in documents obtained Wednesday.

Before she killed herself earlier this month, May Peleg wrote in her will that she wanted to be cremated, a practice that Jewish law forbids. Her religious family took the request to court, which sided with Peleg’s representatives.

The court balanced Peleg’s wishes against her family’s desire for a Jewish burial, pitting religious law against individual rights and highlighting the contrasts between the country’s Jewish character and its often liberal orientation. Rabbinical authorities oversee the country’s Jewish burial practices, though a single crematorium is allowed to operate quietly.

Peleg, 31, was raised in the deeply conservative ultra-Orthodox community, which shuns gay and transgender people, and was estranged from her family. She was a prominent LGBT activist in Israel and her suicide elicited an outpouring of grief.

Peleg said she did not want a Jewish burial because the religion would not recognize her as a woman. “This constitutes a lack of respect and an erasure of my identity,” according to a statement released by her supporters.

Her will stipulated that she wanted some of her ashes to be buried under a tree, where her two children could come to mourn.

Lawyers representing Peleg’s mother, who brought the appeal to the Supreme Court, argued that Peleg was mentally unstable. Lawyer Yitzhak Dahan said the family wanted a Jewish burial so that they could have a grave to visit.

The court sided with Peleg’s lawyers, who had argued that her individual rights outweighed her family’s desire.

“May’s will and wishes prevailed. Human dignity prevailed. The LGBT community prevailed,” a campaign for Peleg wrote on its Facebook page following Tuesday’s decision.

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