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THE OLD JEWISH CEMETERY is called Beth-chaim

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ikona_disabled22The Old Jewish Cemetery, adjacent to the Klaus Synagogue, is called Beth-chaim (The House of Life) by the Jews themselves, and is a place of great significance around the world. It is not known exactly when the cemetery was established, but the oldest gravestone found there bears the date April 25, 1439 and belongs to the well known scholar and poet, Avigdor Kara, who described the pogrom of 1389. Burials took place in the cemetery continuously until 1787, when it was closed. As the Jewish community for centuries had just one cemetery at its disposal, which was crammed in between the houses, and as Jews were not allowed to dig up the bones of the dead, they began to bury people one on top of the other in layers. It’s estimated that the cemetery holds 12,000 gravestones and 80,000 graves in 12 layers.

The gravestones show the name of the deceased as well as many other interesting clues about his or her life. Many gravestones bear verse and emblems symbolising names, occupations and traditional clans. Some of the best known symbols are hands giving a blessing, signifying that the deceased belonged to the Aron tribe (Kohen) of priests; the Hebrew name Dob means bear, a kettle is the symbol of the Levi family, a mouse signifies the Maisl family and so on.

Unlike the majority of Jewish cemeteries, we find reliefs depicting human forms. These are somewhat imperfect, intentionally so, as the stonemasons did not want tobreak the holy law forbidding the depiction of people (it was considered as an arrogant attempt to imitate God’s work).

Contact:

Old-New Synagogue
Siroka 3
Praha 1 – Staré Mesto/Josefov
Web: http://www.synagogue.cz

Opening hours:

April – October 9 – 18 daily except on Sat and Jewish feasts
November – March 9 – 16.30 daily except on Sat and Jewish feasts

Admission:

Barrier-Free Entry: yes

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