Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Running out of places to bury the dead, the holy city of Jerusalem is building an underground cemetery for thousands of new graves.
In Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood, construction on the underground section of the Har HaMenuchot Cemetery is underway, and the first 8,000 burial spaces will be available this fall. Officials said the underground cemetery will be able to hold 30,000 plots.
Experts say the hilly terrain is ideal for the project.
"There is no other structure like this in the world," said Hananya Shahor, executive director of the Kehillat Yerushalayim Hevra Kadisha burial society. "We put thought into maintenance for many years. The materials are simple. We made sturdy buildings with future generations in mind."
The project has multi-level saturation burials, which give the graves 10 times more density, and "villas." Excavation of the tunnels started in 2015, dug 164 feet underground. The finished product will be like "a grid of streets like Manhattan," Peleg Architects' Zafrir Ganani said.
Chananya Schachor, head of the Kehlillat Yerushalayim burial society, said the tunnels are ecologically friendly because they don't require clearing the ground.
"The government and the state do not allocate land for burial, and there is a growing shortage of land for all purposes -- so someone needed to take responsibility," Shachor said.
Officials said if the burial tunnels are successful, crews can add more capacity by burying graves even deeper.
In ancient times, members of the Jewish faith buried their dead in tunnels in Israel.