Finding the dead goes high tech

Israeli burial societies invest in technology to make the search for a loved one’s last resting place less grave.

By KALINDI O’BRIEN / THE MEDIA LINE
September 21, 2010 18:03
2 minute read.
Illustrative photo

burial. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Tech savvy Israeli burial societies have made it easier to find the dead, as technological advances have eased the process of finding gravesites in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv cemeteries. 

The Tel Aviv based Chevra Kadisha, or Jewish burial society, is leading the way with an SMS grave-locator which allows visitors to SMS the name of the deceased and a prompt reply will tell the visitor the location of the grave of the deceased.

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Other projects include a PDF rentable while at a cemetery and a GPS grave-locator for mobile phones. Both of which are intended for the larger cemeteries like Holon, that has over 220,000 graves.

“It has been very difficult to find gravesites,” Rabbi Berel Wein, founder and director of The Destiny Foundation told The Media Line. “Anything that could help them [families looking for a gravesite] would be great.”

“After decades and centuries it piles up,” Rabbi Wein told The Media Line. “Many times the people who are coming to the cemeteries are grand children or great grandchildren with no concept of where to look.”

“The problem in Jerusalem is really on the Mount of Olives,” Rabbi Mithoel Fletcher, director of Achuzat Kever, a Jerusalem based burial service told The Media Line. “Jews have been buried there for many hundred of years, so you have a much longer time scale and it becomes more difficult to locate gravesites.”

While technology and death may not seem the most obvious match, the wide spread use of the Internet has transformed Jewish Israeli burial societies.  

The Tel Aviv Chevra Kadisha recently invested over $130,000 on a new Hebrew, Arabic and English website where relatives of the deceased can create commemorative pages in memory of the their loved ones.

“The details found in the commemoration pages will also be available through the information stations in the cemeteries," Rabbi Avraham Manlah, director of Chevra Kadisha Tel Aviv told the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot. “Right now, the Holon Cemetery features the first station. It's a pilot program. It allows visitors to order and pay for the services offered by Chevra Kadisha and read commemoration pages on the website."

While the brunt of the initial cost fell on the burial society, the burial society’s leaders said that the investment will pay dividends and the growing popularity of the new features will help keep the cost reasonable for the visitors.


"We will continue to use technology in favor of the families, who encounter Chevra Kadisha at their most difficult hour and need any support we can lend them, both human and technological,” Alter Hoz, chairman of the Tel Aviv Chevra Kadisha told Yedioth Aharonot.

The incentive behind the Chevra Kadisha technology initiative was to simplify the process for the visiting families and lessen the paper chase that accompanies any grave search.


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