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.