Monday, 8 August 2011

Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

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The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague located in Josefov, Prague was built in the 1400's and is copiously robed in hundreds of Gothic like blocks and layered with century old figures. Many of the inhabitants of the burial grounds were residents in the ghetto like Jewish Quarter, and they were segregated and forced to reside there under the strict institution of the Christian authorities. Of course, these types of ethnic neighborhoods still exist in the United States, Europe and Middle Eastern countries. Typically, they are situated in large metropolitan areas where their local culture is still being practiced.

The People

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There have been close to 12 layers of individuals buried within the confines of the Old Jewish cemetery. It has been estimated that there are approximately 12,000 headstones presently visible and there may be as many as 100,000 burials in all. The most important personalities buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery are Yehuda ben Bezalel- known as the Maharal Rabbi Löw , Mordechai Maisel, David Gans and David Oppenhei.

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David Oppenheim is especially renowned for his famous Hebrew library, the foundation of which was a numerous collection left to him by his uncle, Samuel Oppenheim, in which were some valuable manuscripts. David was also a distinguished cabalist.

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Mordechai Maisel was first mentioned in 1569, having business relations with the communal director Isaac Rofe.  Eva, his first wife, died before 1580, however she assisted him in building the Jewish Town Hall in Prague, which is still standing, as well as the neighboring Hohe synagogue, where the Jewish court sat.

David Gans was a mathematician, historian, astronomer, astrologer, and is best known for the works Tzemach David and Nechmad ve'naim. His grave is marked in the cemetery with a "Magen David" and a goose .

An Archaeological Find

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The Old Jewish cemetery's ancestor was a cemetery called "The Jewish Garden", which was found in archaeological excavations under the Vladislavova street, New Town. What's interesting about the find was that it was previously mentioned in the Old Testament which made reference to gardens and the Song of Solomon. Today, there is little to be seen due to the years of weathering.

The odd layering of the cemetery may have been adopted because of the heathens surrounding the Jewish people. They set up graves and altars in the parks and sacrificed in the open air. Although, with the emphasis on foliage and lush landscapes, the stones make sense. It's rather a garden of people who have blessed the earth, as opposed to the cemeteries now that are perfectly manicured and without identity, except for the frigid stones that are symbols of what once was.

 

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