By: Julie Power
Jews and Muslims will share the last available burial space at Rookwood Cemetery to avoid a critical shortage that would have caused the Muslims to run out of space to bury their dead within three months.
The NSW government said on Wednesday a new lot, the size of eight rugby league fields, had been created by closing a road within the cemetery.
”It couldn’t have come any sooner,” said Ahmad Kamaledine, the Muslim representative on the Rookwood General Cemeteries Trust.
The agreement had been 20 years in the making, and the Muslims had been down to their last 80 places, enough for only three months, he said.
The new lot would create 4000 double depth plots, which could accommodate up to 8000 dead for the Muslims, and 2700 single plots for the Jews.
While the Jews did not face as chronic a shortage, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Yair Miller said they would have run out of space in 10 to 12 years.
The burial spaces for the two religions will be divided by small existing roads in the cemetery.
Mr Kamaledine said the agreement showed how the two communities worked together.
”Being able to see [members of] the Jewish and Muslim community being buried side by side and sharing the same ground will demonstrate the willingness of the community in Australia to work together,” he said.
The new burial spaces would give the Muslims a medium-term solution, after years of short-term fixes.
In 2011, they introduced double burials, where two members of a family could choose to be buried in the same grave.
Mr Kamaledine welcomed the cemetery reforms as a big advantage to the community regardless of the different denominations.
”Other former governments simply didn’t look after the dead,” he said.
”They didn’t do justice to those people who lost their loved ones and wanted to visit them.”