The world's first modern underground cemetery was inaugurated in Jerusalem Wednesday.
The event was attended by Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon, Minister of Religious Services, Yitzhak and Akinin, Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef and Rabbi David Baruch Lowe, Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem, Rabbi Arieh Stern and Rabbi Shlomo Amar.
About 3,500 people are buried every year in Jerusalem. About four years ago, the 'Kehilat Yerushalayim' burial society began collaborating with the Roltzur tunneling corporation to promote an innovative, first-of-its-kind solution to the problem of the lack of burial space which is is expected to address the need for burial places in the holy capital.
The innovative solution was to excavate some 24,000 "new" burial plots at the depth of 50 meters (about 160 feet) underground, with the first phase of about 8,000 graves expected to be available for burial towards the end of 2019. The rest of the burial spots are expected to be ready in about two years.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon said at the event that "out of Zion shall come forth the Torah. The 'Minharot Olam' project is unique and is an innovation in burial in Israel and around the world. The project was done with the utmost in preserving the environment and the green areas and maximizing the use of the resource of land. I am proud to be the mayor of a city that cares for its loved ones for a respectable and honorable burial."
Kehilat Yerushalayim manager Hananya Shachor called the Minharot Olam project "something completely new in the Jewish world, I think in the whole world. There was never such a thing as building such beautiful underground tunnels for burying."
"Under the old cemetery, which is 50 meters above us, we started digging, for five years already, and we've got very, very long tunnels. It's about 1.6 kilometers of tunnels. The graves are on the grounds of the tunnels and on the sides, on the walls of the tunnels. They are dug into the hill, into the Jerusalem Hill."