Secular cemetery set for Jerusalem

Lupolianski: 'Let each person choose his lifestyle and burial style;' proposal awaits state approval.

burial 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
burial 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
The Jerusalem Municipality has approved plans to establish a secular cemetery that will allow for civil burial, the city said Thursday. The proposal, which now needs state approval, would see construction of the secular cemetery in a new 350-dunam section of the main city cemetery in the Givat Shaul neighborhood. The civil cemetery, which will be run by the Menucha Nechona NGO, which advocates non-Orthodox burials, will serve people who cannot be buried in the main section according to Jewish law, as well as those who are not interested in being buried in such a manner, the city said. The plan, which was approved by a municipal committee at the initiative of Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, was transferred to the Interior Ministry on Wednesday for further deliberation, a city spokesman said. "Jerusalem is a pluralistic city which requires letting each person choose his lifestyle and burial style without coercion of one form or the other," Lupolianski said in a statement. The director of the municipality's religious structures administration, Yitzhak Hanao, said that the new cemetery was meant to address the shortage of burial space in the city, and would employ various burial methods, including double burial and burial in catacombs. The move comes less than a year before the city's mayoral elections, and follows a High Court of Justice ruling stipulating that any new land allotments for cemeteries include space for civil burial. "It is wonderful that at long last the Jerusalem Municipality is realizing that Orthodox burial is not appropriate for everybody, and that the largest city in Israel will now have a place for those who want to have an alternate burial ceremony," said Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center, which represents Reform Jewry in Israel, and a member of Menucha Nechona's board. She added that Lupolianski had no choice in light of the High Court ruling, adding that he "dragged his feet" as much as possible on the issue. "This is his initiative to the extent that the snow in Jerusalem was his initiative," Hoffman said. The Orthodox rabbinical establishment has a monopoly over burials, marriage, divorce and conversions to Judaism in Israel. Burials are typically handled by Hevra Kadisha, a religious, government-sanctioned charity, and the costs are covered by the state.