Shahaf Samuch
Shahaf Samuch

Trees, memory, and the circle of life

I would like to challenge you. Why must the prevalent ritual of burying our loved ones remain unchanged? Sprawling cemeteries with endless plots, of dull grey concrete. Is this the most touching way to remember our loved ones? Now imagine a beautiful forest with glorious towering trees marked with unique memory stones that tell the story of the friends and family that are no longer with us.

A Memory Forest — a magnificent and ecological way to remember the deceased.  And what would such a Memory Forest look like? Our loved ones, buried at the feet of trees, the embodiment of life. Families will mark the resting place with the stone of their choice, a symbol of timelessness, with the eternal story of the departed’s life. The memorial experience will be forever changed; walking through tranquil forests will soothe relatives and comfort them in their time of need. Additionally, the body of our loved ones will sustain the forest, representing a continuous circle of life within death.

Yes, this revolutionary idea will raise some major objections, mainly around expenses and land allocation. Moreover, we all find it hard to change fundamental traditions that have been deeply ingrained in our lives. As a society, we don’t like change, but sometimes it is crucial to question our ways, as change is a catalyst for growth. Every innovative idea and momentous shift that has happened in the past always faced objections. In a country with so many different identities and countless environmental challenges, it is necessary to rethink the way we conduct this important ceremony, while also fighting climate change.

It is well known that the State of Israel is one of the densest countries in the world, and its natural birth rate (about 1.8%) is among the highest of the developed countries. Therefore, continuing the prevalent custom of burying Israelis in unsightly fields of concrete exacts a heavy price. In the next 20 years, the conventional cemeteries will require about 3 square kilometers, primarily located in the highly populated center of the country. These areas will come at the expense of open spaces, urban development, and agriculture, an irreversible use of space for us and for future generations.

Moreover, as Israel is such a small country, claims such as NIMBY (not in my back yard) will be a constant hurdle for the construction of more cemeteries. Nobody wants to live or work in an area overlooking an uncomely jungle of graves. It is incumbent upon us to find a sustainable solution for the long run, and the idea of planting Memory Forests not only solves the problem, it will also allow the memory of our loved ones to live on in more than just our hearts.

An alternative practice that uproots a tradition so ingrained in us, while solving a major issue and making the world a better place, is exactly what our society needs. Like Churchill once said, “Don’t miss a good crisis”, the COVID-19 crisis that challenged our entire reality is the right key for challenging accepted paradigms. The ideal first step would be to begin planting Memory Forests. This is the true circle of life.

About the Author
Passionate about the power of leveraging private sector activities to tackle global challenges, specifically SDG-related innovation! Full of passion to drive a track change in the fields of sustainability and motivate people into this revolution that will lead to a fundamental change in the country.
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