Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fancy being buried in a catacomb?


When the time comes, of course.

This is not a theoretical question - tombs similar to the ones in this picture have actually been built in the Kiryat Shaul cemetery in Tel Aviv.

Israel is rapidly running out of burial space and a new four-floor building is designed to solve the problem.

But is that how Jews traditionally bury their dead? Actually, yes, possibly even as late as the 5th century, in some places.

There are magnificent examples of Jewish catacombs still standing: one in Israel, in Beit Shearim, and several in Rome. Both include fascinating inscriptions which reveal masses of information about the Jews at the time, including their names, professions, languages they spoke etc.

As for the modern building in Kiryat Shaul, it

is shaped like a hill with flowers and shrubbery growing on its outside walls. Inside, there is space for 5,000 corpses, about four times the number that could be buried in traditional graves within the boundaries of the plot.

On each floor, spacious halls are lined with rows of burial chambers stacked about three high. The rooms are bathed in sunlight and a constant crosswind ensures a pleasant atmosphere. Several rows of chambers are already filled and others reserved.

In their design, Sagiv and Ponger had to address the rabbis' concerns that the burial chambers would be built in accordance with Halacha, or Jewish ritual law.

Each chamber has a dirt floor, with a dirt column running all the way to the ground below, fulfilling the Jewish edict that burial spaces must be connected to the earth, Sagiv said.

Cement walls separate each chamber, in line with the Jewish tenet to bury the dead as individuals...

Similar structures are being constructed in major cities across Israel. Sagiv said one multi-floor "burial hill" will be built into the walls of an old stone quarry and the entire area will be landscaped.


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