While some religions burn or store their tattered sacred books and others simply dispose of them. Jewish congregations usually bury them.
And last Sunday, many local Jewish congregations gathered to bury their books in a community "genizah" ceremony, last held here about seven years ago. Although genizahs, meaning "hiding places," are usually found in synagogues, the local synagogues instead buried their books at King David Memorial Garden in Falls Church.
Jews traditionally have buried their old Bibles, scrolls and prayer books because "in our tradition, the name of God is sacred and should not be wiped out," said Rabbi Martin Halpern.
"During the Middle Ages," he pointed out, "Jewish books often were burned by intolerant religious groups, so the memory of book burning -- and even more so the Holocaust -- has had an effect on us."
Children from Shaare Tefila religious school, attending their first genizah Sunday, explained the service in simpler words.
"Books are made of paper, which comes from wood, which comes from trees, which comes from nature, which is a symbol of God," they read. "It's like a chain that never ends . . . Old book, you've served us faithfully. It's time to rest now in peace."
Then the children lowered hundreds of boxes of books into the deep well where they will be safe from desecration "yet be allowed ultimately to dissolve into the dust," Halpern said.
While Protestants and Catholic churches have no set rules regarding disposal of religious books, other religions do.
Although Moslems believe it is better to wrap and store worn copies of the Koran than destroy them, the books can be torn into pieces and burned if storage is not available.
But such reverence is not necessary when disposing of translations of the Koran, according to Dr. Muhammad Abdul-Rauf, director of the Islamic Center here.
"Only the Koran in Arabic contains the words of God Without change which demands that type of respect," Rauf said.
Buddhists, who also burn sacred writings only as a last resort, usually do so in a ceremony attended solely by priests, according to Dr. Thich Giac Duc, president of the Buddhist Congregational Church of America here.
Halpern said one advantage of the Jewish custom is the possibility that the writings may be discovered and used centuries from now. Halpern said it was the custom of genizah that enabled researchers to find "priceless" treasures" a thousand years old in a Cairo synagogue during the late 19th century.