Friday, December 10, 2010

Old and Jewish

The blue sign located above the souvenir stands (see picture below), indicates by the little white arrows , the direction to the synagogues (Maisel, Spanish, Pinkas, Old-New, Klausen), to the Ceremony Hall, and to the Old Jewish Cemetery- the major sites that make up the Old Jewish Quarter of Prague (Josefov). These historic-religious sites are visited every year by thousands of people from all over the world.

souvenirs in the Old Jewish Quarter

The above mentioned sites, display items belonging to the Jewish Museum in Prague: collections of jewish prints, manuscripts, books, silver ornaments, textile, traditions ,customs, and also lots of drawings by children from Terezin concentration camp.

The Pinkas synagogue is a Memorial to the czech victims of the Holocaust ; their names are written on its walls.
The Old-New synagogue ( the Altneushul) is the oldest in Europe, still in use as house of prayer. The Spanish synagogue hosts, besides exhibitions, also various concerts.

It is forbidden to take pictures inside the synagogues ( the interior of the Spanish synagogue with its moorish decorations is , in my opinion, the most beautiful); visitors can buy postcards, books and commemorative coins offered for sale on the spot.

exterior of the Maisel synagogue

The Old-New synagogue (the Altneushul)

the Pinkas synagogue

The Old Jewish Cemetery is somehow peculiar and yet very impressive .

Although small, the cemetery contains thousands of graves from various historical periods; the oldest gravestone is from year 1439, and the last burial took place in 1787 .
It is said that the graves are put one upon another in some 12 layers! Many of the gravestones seem close to each other and inclined , probably because of
lack of space.

hebrew inscriptions on the tombstones

The most prominent figure burried in this cemetery is Rabbi Jehuda Loew ben Bezalel (known as the MaHaRaL) a scholar and educator who has published more than fifty(50) religios and philosophical books. According to the legend, he created the Golem, a monster made of clay , brought to life through magic, who stood by the Jews in bad times, but later became violent and had to be destroyed.

One thing is obvios; no peace and quiet for the dead of this cemetery. It's constantly flooded with tourists taking pictures and wondering about the sights.


  1. What a wonderfully written post Duta. So rich with history and culture. I would just love to be able to walk through that cemetery. Can't you just imagine the stories???

    God bless you sweetie and have a most stupendous weekend!!!

  2. Thank you for another educational tour, Duta! You've shown me a part of the world I would never see otherwise.

  3. another interesting post worth reading, from one of my favorite bloggers. your posts make in me an urge to visit such places...

    we have a synagogue at cochin where Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, was originally buried and later the remains were shifted to his native place.

  4. A super post. Thanks for giving us a great tour...!
    Have a good weekend.

  5. Fabulous tour. I would love to visit that cemetery, it is so mysterious but I feel like I have been there because you are such a great guide. Thanks

  6. Thank you for writing such a fabulous post.
    There is still so much to see and learn.
    You are a wonderful guide.


  7. I love old cemeteries - I would be one of the tourists disturbing the peace & quiet!

  8. Duta
    Once again you have shared with us a wonderful experience. I enlarged the photos to see if I could tell where the names were written but was not able to see any. Are the names of the victims inside? I think it is grand that the old cemetery has not been forgotten. Lots of graves are not visited that often and at least those have a constant flow of visitors. Peace

  9. As Bug does I enjoy old cemetery's and visit many if there's time. I like that picture a lot!

  10. Interesting post--I agree that cemeteries are fascinating, and a great way to learn about a culture. I also remember stumbling onto the Museo Ebraico in Bologna--and while it wasn't a planned visit, it stuck with me more than the other sites I saw there.

  11. Oh, the cemetery is odd and somehow troubles me. It doesn't seem peaceful. It is amazing how old it is.

  12. Fascinating. Thousands of burials so close together make the cemetery a genealogical treasure (and possibly also a puzzle!) for those whose ancestors lived and died there.
    I would like to see these places in person!

  13. I have to agree with all the above comments,Duta you are a wonderful tour guide.I will probably never get to see the places you show us but your descriptions,information and photos are so informative,I learn something new from all your posts.Thank you.
    Have a good weekend,Carolyn.

  14. Interesting tour again, Duta. But that cemetery: So many people being recycled in such a small space! Confirms my desire to be made into ashes and cast to the winds when my demise comes!

  15. I loved the streets. They are a nice blend of the quaint and the modern. I love graveyards and this one especially seems to be a treasure-house of history and culture. Hebrew is a language that I have always wanted to learn. Do you know Hebrew DUTA? Thanks for another lovely post on culture.

    Joy always,

  16. Aren't burial customs interesting? So much to be learned from the neighborhoods of the dead. Thank you, Duta, for taking us on a trip through this area. May you be enjoying these holiday seasons.

  17. Nezzy,

    It appears, people return to the place again and again, and everytime they discover new things to ponder about.
    Blessings to you too!

    Rocket Man,

    You're welcome! I hope, though, you'll have the chance to see "this part of the world" in person, someday.


    Thank you for the compliment, and for the interesting info. on the synagogue of Cochin and Vasco da Gama.

    Trevor Woodford,

    Super thanks to you, for reading and enjoying my post.
    Have a good weekend too!

    Jennifer D,

    Prague is a city of mysteries, and this cemetery has them all. Let's hope the dead get to rest at night, and there are no visitors there during night hours.

    La Petite Gallery,

    I'm humbled by your words. Thank you.
    Indeed, there is "still so much to see and learn".

    The Bug,

    I bet you are. I share your love for cemeteries.
    I see them as people's final home that should be respected as we respect the home of living people.

  18. Lady Di Tn,

    The inscriptions on the tombstones are in hebrew and they relate to the dead person in the grave. The names of the czech Holocaust victims during the second world war, are written on a wall inside the adjacent Pinkas synagogue. I didn't take pictures of the names on the wall as it was forbidden to use a camera inside the synagogue.

    One Fly,

    I took some more pictures in the cemetery, but I thought it would be too much to publish more of this kind in my post. Not everyone likes the sight of tombstones.

    JoLynne Lyon,

    I agree with your point of view. Cemeteries are of great help in learning about a culture, and...about families in genealogical researches. I'm also not surprised that what you saw at the hebrew museum of Bologna 'stuck' with you.

    Sue(Someone's Mom),

    The cemetery was established in the 15th century. Yes, it is rather odd with gravestones of various shape and color, many of them in an inclined position.


    Indeed, a fascinating 'genealogical treasure'.
    It's a great experience to see these places in person. If and when you have the possibility, go there for a visit!

  19. matron,

    Thanks for your kind words. I'm very flattered that you feel you learn something from the descriptions and pictures in my posts.


    It's really unbelievable! They say the graves are layered generation upon generation. As for your desire, it depends on wether you're a bit religious or not.

    Susan Deborah,

    Of course I know hebrew; it's my second language. My first language is romanian as I was born in Romania.
    The streets are lovely, and the cemetery is indeed ,as you perfectly put it, "a treasure house of history and culture".

    C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson,

    The answer to your question is a big Yes.
    Usually cemeteries are on the edge of a town. Here it is the heart of the town. It used to be a central part in the everyday life of the big jewish community that existed here.

  20. Thank you for this wonderful story and great images!
    I wish you all my best!

  21. A great post full of history. Your real life pictures give us the feeling that we are there with you.

    ( I'm ashamed to say, with reference to where you come from, that I did not have enough time to visit this quarter. It was on the list but didn't expect Petrin and Charles Bridge to take up so much time. Prague would be the pick of the European cities that I would return to. They stopped the flights here from my city for a while, but it looks like another airline is going to start again next year..... all I need is some time !! You'll be pleased to know that I redressed the Jewish balance massively in Budapest and Krakow )

  22. Very interest post...Merry Christmas...

  23. Very interesting and great pictures. Kind regards.

  24. This must have been a very emotional trip. I've never seen a Jewish memorial site or cemetery, but I'm sure I'll be very impressed.

  25. Very interesting Duta. I am always interested to hear anything about cemeteries. My sister works at our local cemetery and I used to work in a funeral home and still have quite an interest in funeral rites and cemeteries.

    I can't imagine how people get around in the cemetery pictured without falling over the headstones. much history it's overwhelming. Thanks Duta again for a wonderful, educational tour.

  26. I sometimes choose to take my walks in cemeteries - they're very peaceful, serene, and a reminder not to take life for granted. I've never encountered a cemetery like The Old Jewish Cemetery, but I thank you for taking me there.

    I lost a close friend almost 30 years ago, and was unable to attend her funeral, which was out of state. Recently, I was able to find her grave online, and posted a flower on the page. This may sound kind of weird, but it was meaningful - to see her final resting place.

  27. Wind,

    Thank you for your always kind comment.
    I wish you too the very Best!

    J on tour@Jayzpaze,

    In my opinion, one needs a minimum of two weeks for Prague. You didn't have time for this quarter, and I didn't have time for other points of interest. Budapest and Krakow are on
    my 'places to visit ' list.


    Good to hear from you! Thanks for your comment and,
    Merry Christmas to you!

    Phivos Nicolaides,

    I'm glad you find my post interesting and the pictures great. Thanks a lot.

    Vert Ange,

    You're right. It was all "very emotional" . One learns a lot from visiting places like this quarter.


    You and your sister are one of a kind from many points of view.

    The graves are somehow grouped, and narrow paths separate these groups. People walk on the paths and can get around the graves, but not so easily among them.


    This cemetery is very special, and attracts a lot of non-jewish visitors as well.

    I'm very moved by your story about the deceased close friend. Your gesture with the online flower displays your nobility of character.

  28. So interesting that so many people in these comments responded so emotionally to the cemetery. Me too. I guess the mystery of it beckons to each of us!

  29. hello, my name is costin, I am from Romania and i want to ask you something. Please, if you want, of course, can you put my blog at your blog list? thank you, and I am sorry if I am disturbing you.

  30. Susannah,

    Well, its history arouses strong emotions in people.
    Besides it looks such a special and mysterious place!

    Costin Comba,

    I'll be glad to have you on my bloglist, but I think you'll have to follow my blog for that to happen. Just click the Follow on my sidebar.