Israeli app helps people navigate cemeteries to find graves

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli-developed app offers turn-by-turn voice directions to help visitors navigate large graveyards in search of a loved-one’s resting place.

Finding the exact location of a grave for a visit or to attend a funeral can be difficult in a large cemetery that is constantly changing. The “Gravez” app, which aims to help reduce that stress, is only available in Israel for now, but its developers plan to expand globally.

“It will change everything,” said Yehuda Hanfling, a service manager for Chevra Kadisha, the main group that oversees Jewish burials in Israel. “People who haven’t been to graves for years and want to reach (the grave) get lost because graves have been added, paths have been added everywhere,” Hanfling said.

Chevra Kadisha began operating the app in September.

The app developers, Corido, used drones and image processing tools to map over 1.3 million graves in 30 cemeteries in Israel so far for pedestrian and vehicle navigation, said Guy Liany, co-chief executive of Corido.

“We map all the geographical elements, the paths, the plots, interest points, everything that depicts the outline of the cemetery,” said Liany, adding that the cemetery managers constantly update the system.

A cemetery that contains an average of 30,000-40,000 graves can be mapped within several days. The app is free for private users but cemetery operators need to purchase the system. The price depends on the size of the grounds.

The app can also suggest nearby parking and provide on-screen prayers traditionally said by the grave. The developers plan in the future to provide paid services like flower delivery or cleaning and renovating tombstones.

“We have been getting reactions from people,” said Corido co-CEO Israel Gold. “We see that people open the application just to look at a picture of the gravestone of their grandfather or a loved one, whose grave they haven’t visited for years and they are very moved.”

Reporting by Rinat Harash; Editing by Maayan Lubell, Steve Orlofsky and Frances Kerry