Family of Israeli transgender activist appeals cremation to Supreme Court

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The haredi Orthodox family of an Israeli transgender activist has appealed to the country’s Supreme Court a lower court ruling approving cremation as requested in her will.

The hearing in the Supreme Court in the case of May Peleg, 31, is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the Campaign for May Peleg’s Memory. The Jerusalem District Court ruled on Nov. 18 that Peleg’s body could be cremated, as she had arranged and paid for in her last will and testament.

Peleg’s haredi Orthodox mother on Sunday asked the Supreme Court to overturn the District Court decision and that she be allowed to bury her child’s body. The appeal filing refers to Peleg in the feminine, as opposed to the original request which calls Peleg “my son.”

Peleg’s will requests not only that she be cremated, but that a ceremony be held and her ashes scattered at sea and under a tree to be planted in her memory.


Cremation is forbidden according to Jewish law, although it is has become increasingly popular among liberal and secular Jews in recent years, particularly in the United States.

Peleg, 31, committed suicide, according to a statement released from the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance.

Peleg wrote in an affidavit prior to her death, submitted to the court: “There are reasonable grounds for concern that if my body reaches my biological mother’ hands she will subject me to a religious burial, with Judaism not recognizing me as a woman, even though I’ve undergone sex change surgery. This constitutes a lack of respect and an erasure of my identity.”

Peleg married at age 20 and had two children before divorcing and undergoing a sex-change operation.  While Peleg and her ex-wife initially maintained good relations, two years ago the ex-wife stopped letting Peleg have a relationship with the children, who are now 9 and 10 years old.

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