Jerusalem to Build City's First non-Orthodox Secular Burial Site

Project initiated by J'lem mayor in 2003; site to allow alternative to existing Orthodox ceremony.

The Jerusalem municipality is expected to erect for the first time a cemetery designated for secular burial, after the project, initiated by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski shortly after taking office in 2003, was approved Thursday.

All burials conducted in the city until today have been carried out in accordance with Jewish law.

The area designated for secular burials will be located inside the new cemetery at Har HaMenuchot. The project encompasses an area of 350 dunams on which a new cemetery will be built in Givat Shaul, and a part of this cemetery will be specifically designated for secular burials.

In this designated area, which will be operated by the "Menucha Nechona" organization, citizens will be able to bury their loved ones without a religious ceremony, or alternately in a Jewish ceremony that is not Orthodox. The secular cemetery will also be available for people who, according to Jewish law (Halakha), cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

In response to the approval of his plan, Lupolianski said Thursday that "Jerusalem is a pluralistic city, committed to allowing every person choose his own way of life and to choose how he is buried without anything being forced upon him in any way."

Meanwhile, Meretz faction chair in the Jerusalem municipal council Pepe Alalo said that presenting the project as Lupolianski's initiative was a "bluff."

"The mayor is obligated to building a secular plot by law. Meretz and the Menucha Nechona organization have been working for years on this initiative, and Lupolianski has no choice but to erect the cemetery," Alalo added.

The new cemetery aims to battle Jerusalem's burial space crisis and will offer a plethora of burial methods - joint burial, vertical burial, burial in crypts and multi-level burial. In the lot adjacent to the cemetery, the municipality plans to build centers for eulogies and purification, an information center and upwards of 800 parking spaces for private and public vehicles.

In addition, the municipality is also discussing a plan to designate an additional 50 dunams for burial purposes in an area connecting the old Har HaMenuchot cemetery with the new cemetery.