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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘cemetery’

The Jewish Cemetery in Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

A few years ago, a Saudi friend told me of the existence of a Jewish cemetery, or maqbarat al-yahud in Arabic, in the al-Ihsaa region in the eastern part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The friend had been surprised to discover it and knew nothing about its history–about how the cemetery came to exist. The mystery was answered with the publication in 2012 of a well-documented work by Yusuf Ali al-Mutairi on al-yahud fi al-khaleej (the Jews in the Gulf). The book provides a balanced and well-documented review of the history of the small Jewish communities in the Gulf region from the start of the 19th century through the middle of the 20th.  The book states the obvious: that, unlike the large Jewish communities in Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and North Africa, the number of Jews in the Gulf countries had never exceeded a few hundreds in any one country.

Most of the Jews who settled in the Gulf countries, primarily in Kuwait and Bahrain, were of Iraqi origin, and many of them were seeking either to escape military conscription under the Ottoman Empire or to explore economic opportunities. Of these Jews, only a few have remained and probably only in the Kingdom of Bahrain, which, in fact, is represented in Washington by Ambassador Houda Ezra Noonoo, a Jew who speaks Iraqi Jewish Arabic dialect quite fluently.

Saudi Arabia was a special case. The Ottoman authorities brought a number of Iraqi Jews to fill administrative and financial posts in the al-Ihsaa region, the key source of its oil. Al-Ihsaa had been incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1871 and governed under the Wilayat of Basra (Iraq) and remained so through 1913. A Saudi royal decree issue in 1956 changed the name of al-Ihsaa Region into the Eastern although local population continues to refer to it as al-Hasa.

In his study on the Jews of the Gulf, Al-Mutairi relates that Jews occupied important positions in al-Ihasaa–notably that of the treasurer (during the Ottoman Empire the post was known in Turkish as sanduq amini). Three successive occupants of the post were Jews–Yacoub Effendi (1878-1879), Daoud bin Shintob (the Arabic version of the Hebrew word Shemtov) (1879-1894), and Haroun Effendi (1895-96). During their tenure, many of the entries into the books were made in Hebrew (most likely in Arabic transliterated in Rashi script).  Al-Mutairi has suggested that keeping the financial records in Hebrew may have been intended to prevent an audit of the accounts possibly to protect their Ottoman superiors. My own grandfather was a sanduq amini in the Province of Basra for more than two decades until the occupation of the city by the British in 1917. Like many people in his generation, he studied Torah and learned to write Hebrew in the old Rashi script.

Jews were also employed in al-Ihsaa as treasurers in the Sunni office or in the court of cassassion of the district (liwaa).  One Jew, known as “Elyahu the Jew,” served as the collector of customs in the port of Oqair, one of the most important ports in al-Ihassa at the time. But perhaps the most significant post held by a Jew was that of Director of Customs for the whole province, a post that was sought after by many individuals both inside and outside al-Ihasaa because it offered the potential for illicit income.

Daoud bin Shintob (Shemtov) is thought by Al-Mutairi to have been the best-known Jew in al-Ihsaa because of the strong relationship he maintained with the Ottoman and local officials–in particular, with Mohammad Sa’id Pasha, the governor of the Liwa (province) of al-Ihsaa, during the latter’s third term as governor, 1896-1900.  Complaints against Sa’id Pasha relating to his special relationship with Shemtov ultimately led to his dismissal despite the absence of any viable evidence of misconduct.

ACCORDING TO our Saudi sources the cemetery is located behind Riyadh Bank main branch and across from Beirut restaurant in the city of Hufuf.  In his book, al-Mutairi includes a photograph of a walled area taken by him on September 29, 2009, which he describes as the Jewish cemetery.

Our Saudi friend in al-Ihsaa suggests that the photo was perhaps of an area known as Koot [in Turkish, it means the fenced area.] which used to be the center of government for the province of al-Ihsaa. The Ottomans built high walls and watch towers to protect the governing bodies located in Koot. Given that only few Jews lived and died in the area the cemetery itself could not have been large. The Saudis have largely dismantled the walls around Koot and the area has become commercialized. The land on which the cemetery was located is largely deserted and our correspondent maintains that no one has made a claim to it although locals continue to refer to it as “maqbarat al-yehud.”

Jewish Cemetery South of Prague Vandalized

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The Jewish cemetery south of Prague has been vandalized, with over 26 tombstones being knocked over, according to Czech police.  Many of the stones were broken into pieces.

The cemetery is not conducting further burials, and is located in the village of Prudice, 40 miles south of Prague.

Prague is famous as the hometown and burial place of the Maharal, who is said to have used Kabbalistic means to create a large monster called a Golem to protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitic attackers.

 

Hungarian Police Investigating Desecration of Holocaust Monument

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

A Holocaust memorial monument in the southwest of Hungary was desecrated.

The perpetrators broke off several parts of the bronze monument, which stands 3 1/2 feet high and is the shape of a large menorah. Hungarian police said they were investigating the incident.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary said the monument was desecrated sometime over the last weekend. It stood in the courtyard of the buildings of the Jewish community of Nagykanizsa. The local Jewish community erected the monument, near the Croatia border, in 2004.

All seven menorah branches were sawed off and the main shaft was broken. Only part of the three-pronged base remains.

Some 120 Hungarians protested on June 7 in Budapest against anti-Semitism in Hungary. The demonstration was in reaction to an attack against a former chief rabbi. On June 3, a cemetery was desecrated near the capital.

In a letter to the country’s Jewish leaders, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed his “indignation” at the cemetery attack and ordered the Interior Ministry to track down the perpetrators.

Historic Jaffa Cemetery Comes to Life

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Chevra Kadisha burial society will invest NIS 10 million in preserving and refurbishing a historic Jaffa cemetery established in 1840.

The cemetery, at the corners of Yehuda Hayamit and Yehuda Meragusa streets, will revamp the site into a tourist location highlighting the settlement of Jews in the area prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, and the establishment of the city of Tel Aviv.

Among the deceased buried in the cemetery are Jaffa’s first rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi Meragusa, Tel Aviv founder Moshe Beck, Sephardic kabbalist Rabbi Aharon Azriel, and Rabbi Nissim-Yaakov Sorizon.

Plaques explaining the significance of the departed will be added to the site, with aging gravestones restored and the site rejuvenated.

Connecticut Jewish Woman Suing over Burial of Gentile in her Congregation’s Cemetery

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

The AP reports that a trial is set to begin in the case of a Connecticut Jewish woman who sued her congregation because a black woman had been buried in the interfaith section of their cemetery.

Maria Balaban’s lawsuit will go to trial Tuesday in New London Superior Court. She is demanding that the remains of Jamaica-born Juliet Steer be exhumed and removed from Congregation Ahavath Achim’s cemetery in Colchester.

The 73-year-old Balaban argues that the congregation broke the rule against burying gentiles in a Jewish cemetery when it allowed Steer’s burial in an interfaith section of the cemetery in 2010.

The congregation’s lawyer called the lawsuit is frivolous and said the only reason Balaban is suing is because Steer was black. Balaban said her motives are not racist.

1 Dead, Several Injured in Stage Collapse at Har Herzl, Jerusalem

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

At least one person has been reported killed and 6 injured in the collapse of a light array above stage being assembled at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem for Rememberance Day ceremonies.

Initial reports indicate that the deceased is a 20 year-old female soldier and that at least two of the injured are in moderate condition.

A lighting fixture collapsed on a crew assembling the main stage for the annual day memorializing soldiers who have fallen in defense of the State of Israel.

Magen David Adom paramedics and Jerusalem police are on the scene.

Jewish Cemetery in Poland Vandalized

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The AP reports that last Sunday vandals desecrated a Jewish cemetery in Wysokie Mazowieckie, eastern Poland, spraying swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on tombstones and memorial plaques.

according to the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, the vandals also wrote “This is Poland, not Israel” on one sign at the Jewish cemetery.

Police are investigating the attack, which took place in a town that has tried to preserve the memory of the Jews who lived there. The cemetery, restored six years ago, is not completely fenced in. Michael Traison, an American lawyer who has raised funds to restore the cemetery, said it was the first time vandals attacked it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jewish-cemetery-in-poland-vandalized/2012/03/20/

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