Nat'l-religious group, rabbis promote layered burial

Layered burial, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah says, is part of the recent and ongoing struggle for social justice.

Cemetary 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Cemetary 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
Four senior national-religious rabbis have joined an initiative promoting “high-density” burial as a means to alleviate the increasingly problematic lack of burial land in the country.
The initiative was launched ahead of the traditional day of personal accounting for Burial Societies, which occurs on the Hebrew date of Adar 7 and fell this year on Thursday, and also marks the anniversary of the date on which Moses was born and died.
The campaign, initiated last week by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah national-religious organization, was endorsed by Rabbis Benny Lau, Yuval Cherlow, David Bigman and Yehuda Shaviv.
Layered burial, Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah says, is part of the recent and ongoing struggle for social justice, and a revolution in social attitudes to the issue is crucial in preventing future generations being burdened with an unaffordable amount of land being used for burial.
There are several forms of highdensity burial, but the one being advanced is known as “Sanhedrin burial,” because of its use in the past during the times of the Sanhedrin court, and involves interring coffins within a wall in a layered fashion.
“We wish everyone to live until 120,” the petition begins, “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, highdensity burial is permitted by Jewish law and was also practiced by Jewish sages in ancient times. Layered burial has also been approved by chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger who say that it is totally acceptable and considered the same as more traditional burial.
Because of the land shortage, particularly for burial plots, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has also begun a public campaign to encourage high-density burial, although the public has not yet warmed to the idea.
More than 35,000 Jews die every year in Israel. At present, each dunam (0.1 hectare) of burial land can hold 270 plots, which translates as 150 dunams of land given over to burial every year. By 2020, 1,000,000 dunams of land will be needed for burial plots.
According to Jewish law, cremation is forbidden.