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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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VERTICAL ETERNITY

Haredim Reject Government ‘Saturated’ Burials

In the state of Israel more than 35,000 Jews die each a year. The conventional sites permit the burial of 70 per acre, as opposed to as many as 600 in the new system.

Aerial view of the Givat Shaul cemetery utside of Jerusalem.

Aerial view of the Givat Shaul cemetery utside of Jerusalem.
Photo Credit: Flash90

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On Monday, United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, who is Chairman of the Finance Committee, spoke out against the saturated (multi-level) burial plan being advocated by the Ministry of Religious Services.

“According to a report presented to the Knesset Legislative Committee, multi-level burial is not economically acceptable, because of the exorbitant costs involved, as well as the fact that it is not beneficial to the public,” Gafni told the Minister of Religious Services Yaakov Margi (Shas), who was invited to a meeting dealing with budget allocations for the multi-level burial project.

“A large portion of the public would prefer traditional field burial, even if it entails going long distances [to visit the dead], and we must facilitate it,” Gafni added.

Minister of Religious Services Margi argued that his office “held several deliberations last year and we are exploring alternatives. There are several restricted sites which won’t be put to use in the next century, and so there’s no reason not to designate them for [conventional] cemeteries, and we plan to work towards this.”

In the state of Israel more than 35,000 Jews die each a year. The conventional cemeteries permit the burial of 270 persons per dunam (roughly 68 per acre), which means that about a thousand acres each year are converted into cemeteries.

Shortage of land for residential construction, as well as areas appropriate for burial is a strategic problem the state of Israel is facing these days.

Saturated Burial is the general name for a number of burial practices, all of which comply with the rules of Jewish halacha and have received the approval of the Chief Rabbinate, according to the Ministry of Religious services.

These methods are in use at this stage mainly in Jerusalem, Haifa and its surroundings, the Tel Aviv area and the Sharon. Saturation Burial has significantly reduced the amount of land required for burial.

The rationale behind these burial practices is that placing more dead bodies per acre of land (the numbers range from 250 to 600 per acre) would spare the most limited resource in Israel: land.

The campaign against multi-level burials has been ceaseless in recent months, after the Ministry of Religious Services embarked on its campaign to endorse multi-level burials. Protest posters (pashkvilim) against “the edict that is spreading to every city” were distributed in major Haredi neighborhoods.

Some Haredi authorities have prohibited multi-level burial, saying it isn’t considered burial at all.

The Ministry of religious Services has suggested that once multiple- and mausoleum-burials become common, families of the deceased would be required to pay a great deal more if they wish to stick with conventional burial.

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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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6 Responses to “Haredim Reject Government ‘Saturated’ Burials”

  1. David Willig says:

    And meanwhile everyone alive will have to spend more money on housing because conventional cemeteries take up more land making land and housing more expensive. That seems to ne chareidi, i logic make everyone pay extra, so some of them can observe a chumra. Tofasta meruba lo tofasto.

  2. Roc Diaz says:

    sometimes money is not the point

  3. Ruth Hirt says:

    There are instances when we have to accept the facts and yield to practical remedies.

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