When I heard about the fire, I was shocked because I immediately remembered the “Kristallnacht” in Germany. That was in 38, I was a child but I remember it and I remember the burning of books.
Angelika, member of the Fraternity of Etz Hayyim Synagogue
Etz Hayyim: up from the ashes
(article published on guardian.co.uk on Friday 2 July 2010)
Despite terrible arson attacks, Crete’s old synagogue, now fully restored, is a symbol of an indomitable, inclusive Jewish spirit.
The only functioning synagogue on Crete, located in the old town of Hania towards the north-west of the island, suffered two arson attacks in January within 10 days of each other. After visiting the place, which I know well, just a few days after the second attack, I wrote a piece for Cif about what happened, who might have been behind it and how the synagogue’s indefatigable director, Nikos Stavroulakis, and his small dedicated staff were determined to carry on. The vast majority of commentators were very sympathetic.
I was back there last weekend seeing for myself how the synagogue had recovered from what was, undoubtedly, a traumatic episode. The marked deterioration of Greece’s social and political climate in the wake of the government’s response to the economic and financial crisis was hardly likely to make a return to normality any easier. More directly, a very welcome promise of governmental financial support to help pay for the repairs and renovation was soon, and understandably, put in jeopardy as departmental budgets began to shrink.
But since it was rebuilt and rededicated in 1999, this 15th-century, compact Romaniote gem, with its original mikveh (ritual bath) and the remains of some of the Jewish community’s sages buried in its south garden, has relied almost exclusively on voluntary support. And so it was that once the very immediate shock was over, old and new friends, from inside and outside Greece, rallied round, taking their cue from the way in which Dr Stavroulakis, barely missing a beat, threw himself into the task of leading the restoration efforts.
Read the rest of the article here.