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Court: Haredi family can’t block transgender son’s cremation

Israel’s highest court has rejected a haredi Jewish woman’s petition against her son’s wish to be cremated after he had committed suicide.

The supreme court decision, reached late Tuesday, confirmed a ruling by the Jerusalem district court last week that said that the last wish of May Peleg – who was born a man and underwent a sex change – to be cremated should be fulfilled.

Peleg, a 31-year-old who served as head of the executive committee of Jerusalem’s Open House lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center, committed suicide earlier this month. He had long been estranged from his haredi family.

Before his death, Peleg drew up a will that specified he wanted to be cremated, but his mother asked the district court – and then the supreme court – to halt it because both suicide and cremation violate the Jewish faith.

In their ruling, the supreme justices drew on the legal principle that a deceased’s directions for what to do with their body take precedence over their family’s.

In accordance with his wishes, Peleg’s ashes are to be scattered over the sea and placed in the ground under a tree to be planted in his memory in Jerusalem.

Peleg was born a man and underwent surgery to become a woman after having been married and divorced. He had two children from the marriage.

Supporters of Peleg welcomed the ruling, saying it “respects her will and choices, and confirms the principle of individuals’ autonomy.”

“Alongside the instruction regarding what will be done with her body, which we will fulfil in the upcoming days, May left behind a long-term moral edict to struggle for a more just society,” they said in a statement released through her lawyer.

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