Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



No Grounds for Burial

Tzippy Yarom and Rachel Ginsberg

In a country where real estate is premium, Israeli cemeteries are running out of room. Traditional in-ground interment is what people naturally envision when they imagine eternal rest in the Holy Land, but they might be shocked to learn that stacked, vertical burial in above-ground structures is how the country is alleviating the subterranean housing crisis.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When the Israeli government convinced the families of last winter’s Paris supermarket attack to bury the victims in Eretz Yisrael, it wasn’t as simple as the chevra kaddisha made it sound. After the families refused to have their loved ones buried in above-ground multistory graves for free, the burial society agreed to give them in-ground burials at Har Hamenuchos for NIS 50,000 (about $13,000) apiece — the cost of a Jerusalem burial for non-Israelis. The Ministry of Religious Affairs eventually had the fee waived, but the painful incident underscored a largely unknown issue regarding burial in the Holy Land: If you want a traditional in-ground burial, it will cost you — and that’s providing there’s an available plot.

For the living, the housing crisis in Israel is no secret: Skyrocketing real estate prices coupled with the government’s tightfisted policy toward releasing available lands mean Israeli families and young couples are grateful when they have an affordable roof over their heads. But there’s a subterranean real estate crisis too, and one that will affect every Israeli — and every Jew throughout the world who hopes to be buried in Israel after 120 years.

Since the 1960s, there has been a growing awareness of Israel’s limited burial space. In Jerusalem back then,HarHazeisimwas in Jordanian hands, the Sanhedria cemetery had limited space, and even the new cemetery of Har Hamenuchos, opened in 1951, was filling up. Eventually the next hill, known asHarTamir, was added, and todayHarHamenuchoshas about 170,000 occupied graves. There are another 70,000 graves onHarHazeisim, which reverted back to Jewish hands after 1967, but is still plagued by Arab vandalism and violence.

But while Israel has vast stretches of sprawling spaces, land allocated by the government for cemeteries is limited, and with about 35,000 people buried every year in the country, not only is Har Hamenuchos running out of plots — but so are cemeteries in another 20 cities around the country. All over Israel, cemeteries are no longer opening their gates to traditional in-ground burials, and in, Jerusalem, where burial is in highest demand, its three main cemeteries — Sanhedria,HarHazeisimandHarHamenuchos— are already near capacity. Plans to build another Jerusalem regional cemetery nearMaalehAdumim(which is over the Green Line) were vetoed by a fierce opposition claiming the cemetery would violate international rules governing use of land in “occupied territories.”

 

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"