Zaka rescues Charedi Londoner's body in Jordan

The body of a north London Charedi man who died suddenly while on business in Jordan was buried in Israel after the Jordanian authorities were persuaded not to carry out an autopsy.

The man, whose family asked for him not to be identified, was in his early 70s from Stamford Hill and believed to be of Sephardi background.

When family members in Israel learned that he had collapsed in a hotel in Amman last Tuesday, the Israeli organisation Zaka — which was originally set up to recover and identify body parts after terrorist attacks — mounted an operation to retrieve his body and prevent an autopsy from taking place.

According to an account circulated by British Friends of Zaka, Jordanian police had requested an autopsy, as required by local law, to ensure that there had been no foul play.

But when Zaka learned of the possibility: “They took advantage of diplomatic channels in order to prevent the breach to Jewish law.”

Zaka volunteers, including founder Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, crossed the border on Thursday and, with the aid of Arabic-speaking interpreters, told hospital administrators, police investigators and the chief pathologist that autopsy was forbidden in Jewish law.

After a prolonged series of meetings and with the help of the Israeli consul in Amman, Dani Silvan, the body was released from Amman’s Al-Bashir Hospital.

But further negotiations were required to take it out of Jordan.

“For hours, the delegation wandered the streets of Amman with the body in an ambulance,” Zaka said, “travelling from consulate to consulate, and from office to office, until the appropriate papers were secured.

“Shortly before the closing of the border crossing at 9pm, the delegation finally crossed into Israel with the body in a Zaka ambulance.”

The man was buried in the Be’er Yaakov cemetery in Israel later that night.

Last updated: 5:28pm, November 12 2009