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Israeli Supreme Court Rejects Family Petition To Bury Trans Woman As Their “Son"

The ruling upholds the will of Jerusalem activist May Peleg, who made arrangements before her suicide to be cremated to prevent her parents from seizing control of her body.

Posted on November 25, 2015, at 11:54 a.m. ET

Israel's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a suit from the family of a transgender activist that was challenging instructions in her will that she be cremated.

May Peleg, who was chair of the Jerusalem LGBT organization Open House, killed herself earlier this month, following a sexual assault, a battle with her ex-wife over contact with her children, and long struggles with physical and mental illnesses, her friends told The Forward.

Peleg, who was 31, had long been concerned about a battle with her ultra-orthodox family after her death. Their beliefs forbid cremation, and she worried they would attempt to have a religious burial under her male name. Peleg paid for her own cremation in March 2014 at the one funeral home in Jerusalem that performs the service, and filed a will with an attorney a day before her suicide and asked that he fight for her wishes if her family attempted to interfere.

“Since I have no contact with my biological family and since I fear that after my death there will be those who try to obstruct my final wish to be cremated, using various arguments, I ask you to represent me in court and be my voice,” she wrote to attorney Yossi Wolfson, according to Haaretz.

Peleg's fears were born out. In court filings identifying Peleg as her "son," Peleg's mother sought to have the will voided, claiming Peleg was not in her right mind when she wrote it.

"I’m from an Orthodox family and my son’s burial is very important to me," the mother wrote, according to Haaretz. "I ask that his body not be cremated or transferred to any agency wishing to do so. I ask to be given the body for burial according to Jewish law.”

After a lower court rejected her petition, the mother appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court's decision.

"The Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty puts the wishes of the deceased at center stage," the court wrote.

Judge Anat Baron added in an individual opinion, "We do not come to judge the wishes and the way of May Peleg, but only to honor them. May her memory be blessed."

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