An Ancient Solution to Israel’s Coming Cemetery Shortage

One inevitable side effect of the Jewish state’s demographic miracle is an increasing number of the dead as well as the living. Jewish law and custom mandate strict procedures for attending to the bodies of the deceased, which include a requirement that they be buried intact in the earth, thus prohibiting cremation. As Israel is a small country, land for burial is scarce, and cemeteries are already experimenting with creative options. Shlomo Brody sets forth the case for reviving a practice that was widespread two millennia ago.

In recent years, several activists have suggested restoring a method commonly used during the Second Temple period: likut atsamot (gathering bones for reburial). Under this approach, a corpse is buried under the explicit condition that following decomposition (say, a year after burial), the remaining bones will be reinterred into a small ossuary that is placed into a multi-layered alcove or burial cave. This initiative, called K’vurat Eretz Yisrael, suggests that families or communities will utilize the same cave or building. Multiple generations of family members or comrades can have a final memorial spot around their loved ones. Archaeologists have found such caves from antiquity, which contained the remains of dozens and even hundreds of members of the same family.

This practice is already found in the Bible. Joseph’s bones, for example, were initially buried in Egypt and ultimately reinterred in the Land of Israel. This tale has served as a precedent for many people to bring the remains of their family members buried in the Diaspora to reinterment in Israel.

The Jerusalem Talmud describes how this procedure was done. “In earlier times, they were burying them in trenches. When the flesh had rotted away, they collected them and buried them in cedar wood.” The Talmud then describes the emotions of the living family members. On the day [of the reinterment] itself, the mourners were sad and would sit shiva until nightfall. The following day, they were happy since the final decomposition of flesh was taken as a sign that the deceased was no longer under final divine judgment.

Restoring this practice will save billions of shekels and many dunams of land.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Death, Jewish cemeteries, Judaism in Israel

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria