National-Religious Rabbis Promote Layered Burial in Israel

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In addition to standard graves such as the ones shown here on Har Hazeitim, Israeli cemeteries may soon feature many layered burial plots. (Photo Credit: Hans Kundnani)A group of four senior national-religious rabbis have signed on to a new proposal that promotes “high-density,” or layered, burial as a method of addressing the growing lack of burial space in Israel. The initiative was begun in conjunction with the traditional day of personal accounting for burial societies, the 7th day of Adar, which is the anniversary of the date on which Moshe Rabbeinu was born and died. The campaign for the innovative form of burial, which is being organized by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah national-religious organization, was endorsed by Rabbis Benny Lau, Yuval Cherlow, David Bigman and Yehuda Shaviv.

Explaining that advocacy of layered burial is part of the contemporary struggle for social justice, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah said that it is crucial to generate a revolution in social attitudes regarding this matter in order to prevent future generations of Israelis from being burdened with an unaffordable amount of land for burial.

While there are several variations of high-density burial, the national-religious organization is specifically advocating “Sanhedrin burial,” which was used during the times of the Sanhedrin court, and features the interring of coffins within a wall in a layered fashion. “We wish everyone to live until 120,” the group’s petition reads, “but when the time arrives for one of our loved ones to leave this world, we want to encourage, if possible, that their family endeavor to bury them in a layered burial plot.”

According to the campaign, halacha allows high-density burial, and it was practiced by Jewish sages in ancient times. Layered burial has also been approved by chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger, who have stated that it is completely acceptable and considered the same as the standard form of burial. In response to Israel’s land shortage – especially for burial plots – the Ministry of Religious Affairs has similarly initiated a public campaign to encourage high-density burial.