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After years of discussions, a civil cemetery was recently dedicated in Kfar Sava. The new cemetery is funded by the National Insurance Institute and will be operated by Menucha Nechona, a nongovernment organization that offers Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jewish burial ceremonies as well as civil ceremonies.

Until now, the only option open to people in central Israel seeking a non-Orthodox Jewish funeral or burial with a nonreligious ceremony had no choice but to pay large sums to cemeteries situated in kibbutzim. The new cemetery provides for free burial for Kfar Sava residents, in accordance with their own religious tradition and wishers. Nonresidents will be asked to pay the NIS 11,000 per plot price set by the Ministry for Religious Services. That is less than half the NIS 24,000 charged by cemeteries on kibbutzim.

The fact that members of the city council and the local Hevra Kadisha burial society did not oppose the initiative cemetery came as a surprise to Menucha Nechona.

"We're actually solving a problem for them," did not meet with any real resistance from Hevra Kadisha because we are providing them with a solution to a problem," the chairman of Menucha Nechona Kfar Sava, Shalom Noy, said.

"The Hevra Kadisha even dedicated the plot, and as soon as they didn't oppose the initiative then the city council members didn't either," Noy said.

The new cemetery is situated next to the city's new religious cemetery. It offers almost complete freedom with regard to the ceremony and manner of burial.

The cemetery is the only one in the country permitting the shared burial of couples, one next to another, or one on top of the other, depending on the decision by the family.

There is the an option of a coffin burial - in Israel, Jews are usually not buried in coffins - and a grassy patch or a modest headstone can be used instead of a larger gravestone, as is common in cemeteries in the United States. The family can create its own burial ceremony, which can include a musical accompaniment if they want.

The organization believes it is important to preserve the dignity of the dead, both for the family but also in terms of the cemetery itself.

"The new cemetery constitutes a breakthrough also in terms of outward appearance," Noy said. "Menucha Nechona invested a great deal in planning, including flowers, bushes, and trees that will cover the cemetery in green. It will be possible to attend funerals and memorials without stepping on other headstones," he added.