HomeMiddle EastIsraelGrieving Family's Protest Leads to Policy Change on Israeli Military Gravestones

Grieving Family’s Protest Leads to Policy Change on Israeli Military Gravestones

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Tel Aviv, Israel — The family of Capt. Yisrael Yudkin, an Israeli soldier killed in Gaza, has sparked a significant policy change in military burial practices after a heartfelt and determined protest.

The family, members of the Chabad Hasidic movement, left Yisrael’s headstone blank during his unveiling ceremony, demanding the inclusion of the traditional Jewish phrase “May God avenge his blood.”

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This phrase, historically used for Jews killed because of their faith and more recently for victims of war and terrorism, had been prohibited on military gravestones by Israel’s Defense Ministry.

However, after a high-profile campaign supported by senior lawmakers and public figures, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the change, allowing the phrase on military headstones if families desire.

The Yudkin Family’s Struggle

On May 22, Capt. Yisrael Yudkin was killed while fighting in northern Gaza. In June, his family gathered at the cemetery for the unveiling of his headstone.

Instead of a traditional ceremony, they used the occasion to highlight their dispute with the Defense Ministry. Their request for the inscription had been denied, leading them to leave the headstone blank.

“This is not just our pain but the pain of many,” the Yudkin family wrote to Defense Minister Gallant. “The issue [has] remained unresolved, showing insensitivity towards bereaved families and the sanctity of the fallen.” Their protest drew widespread attention, garnering support from across Israel’s political and social spectrum.

Historical and Cultural Significance

The phrase “May God avenge his blood” has deep roots in Jewish tradition. It has been a part of the Jewish response to persecution and loss for centuries.

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In modern Israel, it has also come to be associated with those who die in military service or terrorist attacks. Tzipi Yudkin, Yisrael’s mother, emphasized that this is not just a Haredi custom but a long-standing Jewish tradition.

“It can’t be that in the state of Israel, we’re not allowed to include this on a grave,” she said. The phrase also holds a dual meaning: while “avenge” is one interpretation, it can also be read as “to rise up,” referring to the Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead in messianic times.

Broad Support for Change

The campaign’s success was due in part to its broad support base. Yulia Malinovsky, a lawmaker from the secularist right-wing Israel Beiteinu party, was one of the most vocal advocates.

She argued that accommodating religious customs was essential for integrating Haredi soldiers into the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

“We need the haredi sector with us in the army, and we must make accommodations for them both in life and, unfortunately, in death,” Malinovsky posted on Facebook.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other prominent figures also backed the change, noting its importance in respecting the diverse customs within Israeli society.

Addressing Misconceptions

Despite some concerns that the phrase might incite calls for revenge, Nehemia Rosenfeld, a spokesperson for Kfar Chabad, clarified that it should have the opposite effect.

“By saying [the abbreviation], we’re saying it’s not up to us, we’re leaving it up to God. It’s actually the most humane thing to say,” he explained.

This clarification helped alleviate fears that the new policy might fuel further conflict. Instead, it underscored a fundamental aspect of the Jewish faith: leaving justice and vengeance in the hands of the divine.

  1. Yisrael Yudkin’s Legacy

Capt. Yisrael Yudkin served as a father figure to many soldiers in the Haredi Netzach Yehuda battalion.

His mother recounted how he would visit soldiers who lacked basic resources or family support, filling their fridges with groceries. His dedication and compassion left a lasting impact on his comrades.

“He was firm but also showed them so much compassion. He demanded 100% but also gave them more than 100%,” Tzipi Yudkin said. Even after his death, soldiers continued to visit her, sharing how much they felt his loss.

A Significant Concession

For the Yudkin family and others in their community, the new policy represents a meaningful concession in the broader debate over haredi enlistment in the IDF. “The army is finally waking up to the realization that it needs to be more Jewish,” said Tzipi Yudkin.

While some Israelis expressed misgivings about the change, suggesting that civilian burial options allow for more personalized inscriptions, the decision has been broadly welcomed. Several other bereaved families have since requested the inclusion of the phrase on their loved ones’ gravestones.

Moving Forward

Tzipi Yudkin acknowledged the emotional toll of their battle but expressed relief at its resolution. “It was necessary; we couldn’t rest until this was done. The grief will never end,” she said.

“My heart is divided among my eight children, and that hasn’t changed with Yisrael’s passing. But now that this is over, I want to return to grieving, and eventually find my way back to the routine and the joy for life I once had.”

This story highlights a pivotal moment in Israeli society, where tradition, military service, and family grief intersect.

The Yudkin family’s courageous stand has not only honored their son’s memory but also brought about a change that respects the diverse beliefs of Israel’s fallen soldiers.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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