Hananya Shachor, initiature of the modern innovative “underground burial halls” in Jerusalem, explains to Israel National News that there is a real estate problem in terms of space for grave in Jerusalem, with a rapidly growing population.
“There should be a solution and no one gives any solution,” says Shachor who will be at the Arutz Sheva Jerusalem Conference in New York on May 22. “So now the latest innovation of burial sites is those underground halls.”
Due to it being very deep underground – 50 meters underground – the temperature stays the same all year around at approximately 22 degrees Celsius. There are no issues with hot or cold weather, or grass or trees that are falling and breaking grave stones.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s very quiet inside. You don’t hear the sound of the city. It feels like it belongs to the cemetery,” he explains.
It’s also controlled 24-7 by security, even on Shabbat when it’s closed.
“No one can get into the cemetery unless he’s permitted to do so, during the day the gates are usually open but the cameras show us exactly who is inside,” Shachor says.
It’s important to note that this method of burial is not new at all, he adds. It was done in ancient times in the Land of Israel, with the first burial we know of in the Torah having been done in a cave. Burials in ancient times in Israel were done in caves underground.
“It’s like we do today, the only different is there was no light then and there were no cameras and no cellphones, technology that is used now,” he says.
He notes that according to halakhah this is permitted for Jewish burial.
“We’ve got certificates of ‘kashrut’ for this method by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and we’ve got the papers allowing us to continue this method from the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem, the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi. They all say it’s 100 percent according to halakhah and you can continue building those graves.”
Shachor will be at the Jerusalem Conference where he can speak to people who are interested. In terms of the pricing, he comments that there are a few reasons someone who has limited resources may want to be buried in Jerusalem.
“Sometimes people want to be buried in Jerusalem because their children made aliyah already, so they want their children to be able to visit their graves, so if he wants to cheapest grave he can find it would be in those underground halls, but he’s got other options and he will decide after he sees all the options.”
Shachor wants people form the United States to know that being buried in Jerusalem is part of the connection to Israel.
“With a cemetery it’s a strong connection between the families from all over the world if they are buried in Jerusalem,” he says.
The project was a large undertaking. They dug huge holes and then saw there was no one in Israel who knew what they were talking about, there was no one with experience in designing an underground cemetery so they had to tell the architects how to design the process according to halakhah. The construction went fro 2014 to 2020 when the first burial happened. Since then, they have had thousands of burials.
“Anytime anybody wants to see the location, he’s invited and I'm sure it’ll open his mind about the idea,” Shachor says.