There is a rapture on the lonely shore;
There is society, where none intrudes.
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more...

-Lord Byron

24 February 2013

the Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter of Prague is divided into several buildings scattered around the area of Prague's old Jewish ghetto. The ghetto walls were taken down at the end of the 19th century, as enlightened attitudes finally permeated the Czech lands.

The area is the most visited Jewish museum in the world, mainly because during the Nazi and subsequent Communist rulings, these buildings were allowed to stand and thus have much history within.

The story goes that the Nazi's chose to leave Prague's Jewish quarter intact so that once their aim of murdering every Jew was complete, the Prague Jewish museum would be turned into a macabre "Museum of an extinct race".

This area was finally, and rightfully, returned to the Jewish community in 1994, five years after the Communist rule ended. The area holds some of the most extensive collections of Judaic art in the world. The synagogues were built in the 14th-15th century. I respectfully place the yamaka given to me upon my head, and observe the history and culture of the Czech Jews.

I come to the walls protecting the Old Jewish Cemetery. A metal door with a small window allows the outside world to glimpse into the almost 12,000 tombstones.

I pay the extra fee though to enter the cemetery. I learn that the number of persons buried here is over 100,000, the reason being Jews were not allowed to be buried outside the ghetto, so the dead had to be buried on top of one another, up to ten layers deep.

I ever so lightly brush my fingers along the gravestones of the great religious scholar Rabbi Low ( deceased 1609), Mordechai Maisel, the mayor of Jewish Town ( deceased 1601), and other infamous and prominent people of Jewish history.

As the day comes to a close, I realize the yamaka is still upon my head. I remove it and carefully fold it in my suitcase to take home.
I wonder if the words of "Never Again" that people scribe into books as they visit such horrors will truly ever be heard.




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