10/09/2019, 17.03
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A modern underground necropolis to cope with gravesite shortages

A new mile-long Jewish cemetery with 23,000 burial chambers will cost US million. The first 8,000 graves will be ready by the end of the month. Judaism and Islam do not accept cremation.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) –- A massive, new underground necropolis is being built in Jerusalem to help overcome a looming shortage of Jewish gravesites in the holy city.

The mile-long labyrinth, with 23,000 burial chambers lining the walls and ground, was tunnelled into the hillside beneath Jerusalem’s main Jewish cemetery, Givat Shaul, which is quickly running out of space.

Chevra Kadisha, the main group overseeing Jewish burials in Israel, has invested some 300 million shekels (US million) in the modern twist on an ancient burial practice that it hopes will ease the pressure on the city’s cemeteries.

Dozens of graveyards in Israel have already closed their gates to new burials. Minority Muslims, Druze and Christians are buried in separate cemeteries.

The first 8,000 graves will be ready to use at the end of the month.

“According to our plan, after we finish the first part of 23,000 graves, probably we will have enough space to continue digging underground,” said Chananya Shachor, director of a local chapter of Chevra Kadisha. “We will continue if people will accept this new method of burying.”

The company burrowing into the mountain calls the underground cemetery as the first of its kind in the modern world, and a model that resurrects ancient Jewish burial practices.

Both Jewish and Muslim burial customs require interring the dead in the ground and prohibit cremation.

“The soul is very holy, is very sacred,” said Chananya Shahor. Thus, “we think that after a long life we have to keep the body, and biology will do whatever it does to the body, but we don't interfere.”

By contrast, “Cremation means the body is not worth anything, and that's not the case, the body [has] worth according to Jewish tradition."

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