Jerusalem resorts to ancient burial technique; builds 'City of the Dead' underground

The underground city will be a bee-hive like catacomb which is under construction for the last two years.

City of the dead in Jerusalem
A preview of the completed 'City of the Dead'

Turns out dead people have overpopulation problems too. An underground 'city' is being built in Jerusalem as the holy city has literally no more space to bury the dead.

The underground city will be a bee-hive like catacomb which is under construction for the last two years. When it is completed, it will be capable of holding 22,000 graves and ridding Jerusalem of overcrowding problems for at least ten years.

The city is taking shape under the Mount of the Resting, where specialist drilling teams have dug up to 45-metre deep passages. Tunnels as long as half a mile are being built, along with a network of 50-metre lifts that will connect the city of the dead with the outside world.

"We came up with this idea to provide a solution under the cemetery with burial structures, but also hidden from the eye," said Arik Glazer, chief executive of Rolzur Tunneling, as reported by Religion News Service. "There is not enough land and we take advantage of this."

Families will be able to visit their deceased loved ones with the help of elevators and multi-level platforms. The project, set to be completed by the end of 2018, has a cost of £50 million approximately.

A preview of the completed 'City of the Dead'

Cemetery overcrowding has been a chronic problem in Jerusalem as Judaism does not support cremation. This has led to thinkers coming up with innovative ideas to house the dead in a respectful manner.

Glazer says that this concept is both aesthetic and respectful as it was done with rabbinic approval. One of Israel's chief rabbis visited the site to ensure no religious norms were being violated.

"Everyone really appreciated it," said Glazer, also mentioning that this method of burial was prevalent in ancient times, about 2,000 years ago. Now, the lack of land resources has led us to resort to the age-old practice again.

However, things were not all smooth in Glazer's way towards this achievement. His team had to be very careful not to affect ancient monuments and heritage places while creating underground tunnels in the historical city. According to Glazer, this kind of underground system is the first of its kind in the modern world.

The project has already drawn attention worldwide, becoming the runner-up in the "Innovative Underground Space Concept of the Year" category in the competition organised by the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association or ITA.

Earlier, Israel has shown innovation in dealing with its overpopulated cemeteries. It started building vertical cemeteries, which are now widely used to bury the departed. This system of burial has also managed to secure the approval of Israel's ultra-Orthodox burial societies.