Saturday, February 28, 2009

Czeching the Jewish ghetto: Old Jewish Cemetery

While in Josefov, I went to see the Old Jewish Cemetery.

The most important person they said buried in this cemetery is ‘Rabbi Loew’. I didn’t have enough time to read about him but legend says he once had a 9-foot tall golem (like a robot creation) made from clay. Golem was made to protect the Jews in the district but one day he went into a wild rampage and Rabbi Low had to destroy him by writing the name of God in a wafer and putting it inside his mouth. The golem’s remains were said to be in the attic of the Altneuschul (Old-New Synagogue).

I spent a large time in the cemetery as I find the place really interesting. Not spooky at all. The 15th century cemetery has grave stones that look like a kaleidoscope of old world tombstone art. Because the Jews were forbidden to bury their dead outside the quarters, they had to make do with the burial ground available to them. It is estimated there are about 12 layers of tombs on top of each other in this cemetery.

You can also find small folded notes and letters squeezed into the cracks of many tombstones. These are said to be prayers left by the visitors. I can only guess, Jewish visitors.

Of course, the visit is not complete without taking a foto of me in the cemetery. While getting ready to smile in front of my camera, two older British ladies passed by and whispered to me, ‘You can not take fotos here.’ Then, all of a sudden they broke out in giggles, just like little girls.

I joined in the giggling and laughter. They told me how ridiculously expensive the tickets were. They felt they were ripped off big time. One of the women said in a hushed tone, her hand partly covering her mouth while squinting her eye and her lip half-apart, ‘It’s because they are Jews...’

They asked if I was from America and I told them my standard line when asked this sort of question, ‘I am from the Philippines but I now live in Holland.’

The encounter with the two older British ladies left me hanging a bit. It was as if I was in the middle of some English-style female gossiping sitting but somehow done with taste. Eeeek.

Moi, finally with a souvenir foto.

Written prayers rolled in tiny sheets of paper inserted into the cracks of the tombs.

Can you imagine that there are 12 layers of graves here piled on top of each other?

Travel Period: December 2008

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