There has been a huge five-fold increase in the number of burials taking place in Israel of British Jews who have died during the pandemic.
The community has been paying upwards of £4,500 to ensure loved ones are laid to rest in the Holy Land, but virus restrictions prevent families from travelling with the body to mourn.
Ben Adler of Traveldesk and Daniel Feld of Feldan Travel, who work together to facilitate the transportation of bodies to Israel, told the Jewish News, they had seen “up to a five-fold increase at the peak which was late-March to mid-April.
“We have arranged burials from all major UK Jewish communities, nationwide, and even from mainland Europe, where there has been a lack of flight options.”
Speaking about arrangements for transporting bodies, they said: “We in the UK are fortunate that there is a nightly cargo flight from Heathrow. This has been a great help in mitigating the extra costs that could have been incurred if we had to charter flights for this purpose. The moderate cost increases are due to PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for those handling the deceased here in London, and Israeli Ministry of Health regulations, requiring various extra safeguards such as zinc lined coffins to reduce danger of infection”.
With synagogues and schools closing, Feld and Adler said disruption had not been caused for burials. “We haven’t had any significant delay to burials. None of our clients have been buried in the UK in the interim.”
They added that “coroners in the UK have been most helpful in providing paperwork” and “the Israeli consulate made special provisions” to ensure flights would go ahead.
“The flights are cargo only, so, sadly relatives from the UK are unable to attend the actual burials” they added.
This comes after the Times of Israel reported that United Synagogue (US) member Leon Simons, 88, had passed away and was buried in Israel. The US Head of Burials, Melvyn Hartog, explained that Mr Simons was the “only one going out” during the pandemic, through the organisation.
He added that the process for arranging a burial “was straightforward”, and costs between £4,000-£4,500, in addition to around £1,000 to move the body from the airport to the burial site.
Shamsi Mozes of Mozes Travel, who also facilitates burials in Israel including for the US, explained that during the peak of the pandemic a few weeks ago the number of bodies needing to be taken over “went up by a lot”, but in the last few days “it’s quietened down.”
He explained that “people who want to go to Israel, whether they’ve already got plots there or if they left a request to go, are being taken. Nobody has been put off”.
This comes as the UK community’s death toll due to coronavirus passed 350, in data compiled by the Board of Deputies through six communal burial societies.