No one likes to talk about dying. Nevertheless, it is important at times to put emotion aside and prepare for the inevitable.
While not everyone has the opportunity to live in Israel, many have a keen desire to be buried there. If they have children who have made Aliyah, the motivation is even greater —so that their children and grandchildren will be able to visit their graves.
The Jerusalem Burial Society, the largest burial society in Jerusalem and the second-largest in all of Israel, deals with the majority of burials in the Holy City. Their staff is available 24/6 to assist mourners during their most difficult time. Founded 80 years ago by a group of rabbis and other prominent public figures, the Jerusalem Burial Society takes families’ individual desires into consideration while remaining within the parameters of Jewish law.
The Jerusalem Burial Society has a wide range of options and price ranges for burial on the centrally located Har Hamenuchot, from graves under the open sky to catacombs built underground with cutting-edge technology.
The latter, a state-of-the-art project called Hallowed Halls of Eternal Life (Minharot Olam), was developed as a solution to the increasingly overcrowded Har Hamenuchot cemetery, which is nearing capacity since there is no land available for expansion. The Hallowed Halls underground cemetery is the first of its kind in the world, allowing for dignified burial in accordance with the strictest religious standards, and approved by Israel’s Chief Rabbis.
Fully accessible by elevators and golf carts, The Hallowed Halls has been described as “a marvel of modern engineering” and is equipped also with closed-circuit cameras, 24-hour security, and an intercom system that allows for peace of mind. WiFi and cell phone reception are available throughout the complex. Innovative thermostat technology maintains an even temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so that funerals and memorial services can be held without concern for rain, heat or inclement weather.
As technologically innovative as the Hallowed Halls are, Rabbi Moshe Shimon, CEO of the Jerusalem Burial Society, stresses that this underground cemetery is in fact the revival of an ancient tradition. “The first burial mentioned in the Torah was done by Abraham when he buried his wife Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah,” he says. “It’s like we do today, just without the technology.”
Aside from being modern and well-lit, the Hallowed Halls are adorned by a magnificent art installation created by world-renowned artist Gabriel Yvelle. Crafted painstakingly from thousands of pieces of metal and colored glass, the huge embryonic spheres symbolize the circle of life and eternal light (ner tamid).
Shimon stresses that the Jerusalem Burial Society has options for all families and communities, “always with the utmost sensitivity to the individual desires and needs of the mourners.”