As It Happens

Transgender activist's last wish was to be cremated. Then her mother asked an Israeli court to stop it.

May Peleg, a transgender woman in Jerusalem, gave her lawyer a letter outlining her burial plans a day before she killed herself. She feared her family would try to give her a Jewish burial as a man. She was right.
May Peleg, a transgender woman from Jerusalem, killed herself on Saturday. The day before, she gave her lawyer a letter stating her wish to be cremated. (Ofirt Assaf)
Listen7:01

May Peleg was clear about what she wanted to happen to her after she died. She wanted to be cremated. 

To make sure there was no doubt about her wishes, the Israeli woman gave her lawyer a letter stating her wish to be cremated. One day later, she ended her own life. 

She had gone through a lot of pain and suffering and mistreatment. But, with all that, she did a lot of good.- Eran Globus, friend of May Peleg

Peleg was so explicit about her wishes because she was a transgender woman, estranged from her family and feared they would have different ideas about her funeral. 

She was right.

Her mother asked a Jerusalem court to block the cremation and allow her to instead give Peleg a Jewish burial as a man. Wednesday, a judge ruled that Peleg's wishes should be respected. Her family has until Sunday to appeal.

"We are in deep sorrow because of the passing of May, but there is very much relief that she will have peace and her will will not be changed," Eran Globus , a friend of Peleg,  tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Transgender activist May Peleg (left) with her friend Eran Globus (right). (Ofrit Assaf)

In court, Peleg's mother referred to her as "my son" and argued that Peleg was in a mental crisis and not capable of drawing up a will. Her mother asked that Peleg be buried because cremation is against Jewish custom.

Globus says Peleg was estranged from her mother and that the two had barely communicated in the last decade. Her friends provided the court with a psychological assessment from September showing Peleg was of sound mind.

Globus says Peleg, who suffered emotional and physical pain in her life, left behind a note for her friends and loved ones asking them not to blame themselves for her decision to kill herself.

"She had gone through a lot of pain and suffering and mistreatment," he says. "But, with all that, she did a lot of good."

Not only was she an activist, Globus remembers her as a generous friend.

"She tried her best to help everybody," he says. "I think her story is (it's weird to say it but) a victory because in a very short life - she was only 31 - she helped a lot of people to believe in themselves. Not only in themselves, but in the community."

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