|Rhodes´ Jewish Quarter|
Story by Willard Manus
To visit the Greek
island of Rhodes is to understand why the geographer
Rhodes' prime attraction is the Old Town, which is located in the main city behind fortress walls and moats built by the Knights during the two centuries they held the island as an outpost against Islam. The Order of the Knights was comprised of various nationalities called Tongues, all of whom found themselves living cheek by jowl with a sizable Israelite presence, one which dated as far back as 140 BC. Their number was greatly expanded in 1280 when a group of Jews escaping the Spanish Inquisition arrived on the island, the first Sephardim to set foot on Rhodian soil.
When the Turkish
army of Suliemann the Magnificent first attacked the
Because of his cruel
treatment, many of the Rhodian Jews decided to aid
The conquest of Rhodes
by the Turks in 1522 was welcomed by the Jews.
It is still possible to walk the medieval streets of the Juderia, though it is no longer known by that name, simply because the Jews are gone, except for a handful who survived the Holocaust. Thus one can no longer hear Ladino spoken or encounter Jewish cobblers, tinsmiths and shopkeepers. Nor can one be thrilled by the singing of the Rhodeslis, whose love of music was famous, especially when it came to the epic ballads and romanceros of Ancient Spain. Neither will one be fortunate enough to encounter the women of the Juderia, who were known for their beauty and high spirits, as well as their cooking, embroidery and crocheting skills.
However, one of the Juderia's four synagogues still surives. The Kal-Shalom, which stands on 8 Simmiou St., is open during summer daily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m, and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Services are held when enough visitors are present to form a minyan. The Rhodes Jewish Community headquarters is at 5 Pilidorou St., Tel. 223-64. Also of major interest is the Jewish cemetery, which is located a few miles outside the Old Town and has been reconstructed. Many of its tombstones incorporate symbols of the trades practiced by the deceased and there is a statue to all those Rhodeslis who perished in Hitler's concentration camps.
In 1946, Gabriel Haritos, the first Mayor of Rhodes after WW II, renamed La Kay Ancha "The Street of the Hebrew Martyrs." To walk this street is to pay homage to their memory.