Israel faces grave outlook for burial space

Mon Aug 3, 2009 12:27pm EDT
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By Ari Rabinovitch

JERUSALEM (Reuters Life!) - Israel is running out of space to bury its dead.

Since the Jewish state's creation 61 years ago, cemeteries across the small country have been filling up with graves. Cremation could be an option, but ritual Jewish law bans the practice. So plots are at a premium and space is tight.

At the entrance to Jerusalem, one of the city's largest cemeteries now juts out and touches the highway as an eerie reminder to all passing by just how little land is available.

A government-appointed committee is looking to the past for a solution for the future -- proposing, in its words, "high-density burials."

Back in Biblical times, it was common for the dead to be laid to rest on top of each other in underground crypts.

The space-saving idea was resurrected about 20 years ago by Israeli architects Tuvia Sagiv and Uri Ponger.

They approached Israel's Chief Rabbinate, which oversees Jewish burials, and showed it pictures of tombs in which members of an ancient judicial council, the Sanhedrin, were buried.

The Rabbinate liked the idea, as long as strict religious guidelines were followed.   Continued...

<p>Graves are seen at the Tel Aviv cemetery of Kiryat Shaul July 28, 2009. Israel is running out of space to bury its dead. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen</p>