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Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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Israel’s burial crisis and the afterlife

August 3, 2009

Far from the spotlight of peace talks and military conflicts, Israel is facing a different kind of land crisis: it is running out of space to bury its dead. Most Jewish cemeteries in major cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, are filled beyond maximum capacity. Gravestones are packed together leaving little room for mourners to gather.

Cemeteries in Israel are packed with graves. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

You can read about a new system of multi-tiered burial chambers being used in the Jewish state to solve the issue of land. It’s actually an ancient system, used thousands of years ago by Jewish sages, that was modernised by two Israeli architects and given approval by the country’s chief rabbis.

Ancient Sanhedrin Tombs
Modernised Multi-Tier System

Ancient Sanhedrin tombs and their modern-day revival

Adding to the problem of dwindling burial space for Israelis, each year about 1,500 Jews from around the world choose the Holy Land for their final resting place. For some, the choice could come from the allure of being buried in the Jewish state. For others, it stems from the Bible. And you can always find some group that offers to help make it happen.

Israel’s Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger said in an interview with Reuters that it is written in the Talmud — a collection of ancient Rabbinic texts — that “the earth of the Holy Land cancels all the sins of the person who passed away so he can go directly to heaven and paradise without sin”.

One of the most sought after — and expensive — cemeteries is Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, just outside the Old City walls. Many Jews pay thousands of dollars to be buried at the Mount of Olives because the Bibilical Prophet Zecharia said that the Messiah, upon arriving in Jerusalem, will first ressurect those buried there.


Vedic tradition is the only practical solution- cremation with religious rites.

A relevant topic of global importance, indeed. Predictions are that by 2050 the worlds population will grow to a mammoth 9 billions. Even if 60 % of them were to buried, it’s a lot of precious real estate that needs to be downgraded into a burial ground. Last time I heard the land is shrinking and not expanding. The Hindu think tank, thousands of yrs ago, had foreseen the after death ground reality and made it a religious obligation to take the cremation route. Wake up people , a serious land problem that’s going to overwhelm us all in not so distant future.


I do agree with Azad the land is for the living.


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