ESJF is proud to announce that field surveys have wrapped up in the first of the project countries in our 2019 EU co-funded mass survey project: “Protecting the Jewish cemeteries of Europe: a full mapping process with research and monitoring and individual costed proposals for protection”. Our team travelled around Greece between March 26th and April 14th, mapping 48 sites in total. Greece has proven to be hugely different from the countries in which the ESJF has worked in the past, both in terms of the specific challenges posed by its unique topography, and its mostly Sephardic burial tradition. The survey teams flew, took ferries, and travelled on land to visit such well-known sites as Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhodes, and Zakynthos, but also smaller sites, like Paramythia, Rethymnon, and Preveza.
The contrast was clear between the larger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki, where the Jewish cemeteries are well-maintained and operational, and smaller towns, in which many of the sites are either abandoned, overgrown, or demolished. Around half of the cemeteries visited by ESJF were found to be protected and fenced. The other sites are demolished, with many of them having been built over or repurposed. In such cases, it is rare that any traces of the cemetery remain.
The impressive aerial footage collected by the teams will soon be showcased on our YouTube channel. The next steps for ESJF in Greece will be to develop fencing plans for the threatened cemetery sites, and to begin education projects for secondary school children.