Mourning Traditions in Israel

by L-Johnson
stones upon the graves is the Jewish Cemetery Mount of Olives.

People place stones on the graves of deceased relatives at this old cemetery at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel.

The religious beliefs of Israel tend to focus more on the here and now, rather than the concept of an afterlife.

After a burial, the deceased’s friends and relatives return to a home called the “shiva house” to begin a seven day period of intense mourning. It is inappropriate for a mourner to leave this house; others must take care of any errands or outside commitments for them.

This is an emotionally and spiritually healing time where the mourners are visited by their friends and relatives who pay their respects and often bring food. Mourners dress in black, sit on low stools, and recite prayers. Prayer services are held in the shiva house instead of a synagogue so the services can come to them and they don’t have to dress up and leave.

Another traditional practice is for mourners to tear their clothes; today they generally rip only the lapel of their shirts.

When visiting a Jewish cemetery, it is customary to place a stone on the gravestone in memory of the deceased. There are days that are special for visiting the grave site, such as the 7th day of mourning, the 30th day, and completion of the first 12 months of mourning.

Pregnant women usually don’t go to funerals or keep far from the procession. This originates in a superstition that the unclean spirits hovering around a dead person may harm the baby.

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