Jerusalem's tunnels cemetery nominated for int'l award

Jerusalem underground cemetery Photo: Guy Nadri

With a capacity of 23,025 graves, the tunnels on Har Hamenuhot will help supply Jerusalem's burial needs for 12 years.

The underground cemetery, construction of which is currently being completed in the Har Hamenuhot cemetery on Givat Shaul in Jerusalem, has reached the finals of a global underground design competition to be held next month in Paris by the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association. The cemetery is competing in the innovation category, and the two other competitors in the category are an underground storage master plan in Hong Kong and an underground railway terminal in Istanbul.

The underground burial complex in Har Hamenuhot is a joint initiative of the Jerusalem burial society and the Rolzur Tunneling limited partnership, which previously specialized in underground construction for the Ministry of Defense. The burial society and engineering company have been promoting an underground tunnel city under the regular Givat Shaul cemetery for the past two years at cost of over NIS 200 million as a purely economic venture and a 12-year solution for the shortage of burial space.

According to the design presented to the planning authorities, the tunnels have a capacity of 23,025 graves, including field burial for 10,000 people at 3,800 graves per dunam (15,200 graves per acre). Architect Zafrir Ganany from Peleg Architects led the detailed design, with assistance from land, geological, lighting, plumbing, and other consultants. According to the plan, the center of the tunnels complex will contain a shaft 25 meters long and 50 meters deep (15 floors of the building are for housing). Three elevators with a combined capacity of 90 people will be located in the shaft.

The walls of the shaft, which are like a beehive, will be used for burial. Openings at the bottom of the hill will also allow direct entry to the 15-meters high network of burial tunnels (the height of four floors in a residential building). Movement in the tunnels will be on foot, while small golf carts will carry those for whom walking is difficult.

Burial will be in alcoves drilled into the rock on several floors in the side walls. In areas where the tunnels are shorter, there will also be field burial, which is more prestigious, and will therefore be more profitable. Natural lighting will come from openings in the side of the hill, and a remote-controlled air-conditioning and lighting system will also be installed that can be operated at lower cost when a visit or funeral is taking place.

Rabbi Hananya Shahor, manager of the Kehilat Jerusalem burial society, was surprised that the underground cemetery's candidacy in the competition had been reported, but obviously felt satisfaction and pride, saying, "Rolzur Tunneling, an international company for underground purposes, is responsible for submitting our candidacy. We're traveling there in two weeks, and then we'll see what our final ranking is. I think that it's an honor for the country, an honor for Jerusalem, and an honor for the thousands of deceased, because there's innovation there. They dug a hole in the earth for thousands of years, and now something has suddenly changed. I'm not going to Paris to get a prize; I regard it as part of my mission."

Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on November 6, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

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Jerusalem underground cemetery Photo: Guy Nadri
Jerusalem underground cemetery Photo: Guy Nadri
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