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July 5, 2016 2:40 pm

400-Year-Old Jewish Cemetery in Turkey to Be Restored in Effort to Commemorate Once-Vibrant Jewish Community in Milas

avatar by Lea Speyer

The Turkish city of Milas will be restoring its Jewish cemetary as part of a project commemorating the city's Jewish history. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Turkish city of Milas will be restoring its Jewish cemetary as part of a project commemorating the city’s Jewish history. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A 400-year-old Jewish cemetery in southwestern Turkey will be restored as part of local efforts to commemorate the area’s once-vibrant Jewish community, Turkey’s Daily Sabah reported.

The cemetery, in the town of Milas, will undergo restoration under a special project entitled “Silent Witnesses to Milas Jewry.” According to the report, local officials hope the cemetery will become a tourist faith destination.

Approximately 170 graves — some dating as far back as the 16th century — is what’s left of the Milas Jewish community, which has long since left. Milas Mayor Muhammet Tokat told the Turkish daily that the city was once home to a large number of Jews.

“We had Jewish neighbors. They were mostly merchants. I remember them well, but future generations should also be aware that Jews once lives in Milas. Researchers will study the graves and experts will renovate it as part of our project,” he said.

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The restoration project is taking place under the coordinated auspices of the local municipality, governorate and a Jewish foundation. Dr. Siren Bora — one of the historians who will be conducting research at the cemetery — said she hopes by examining the headstones, new information on the city’s former Jewish culture will emerge.

“Jewish gravestones give insight into the past of the deceased as they are very detailed in describing the buried, from their occupation to their family history et cetera,” she told the Daily Sabah.

A section of the cemetery will be reserved for a local museum as part of a feature highlighting the city’s Jewish history, the report said.

Sami Azar, a leader of the Jewish community in the western city of Izmir, said he has been in talks with Tokat regarding the project. “Every nation, every community who lived in these lands left their trace in Anatolia and this cemetery is also a part of Anatolian culture, just like Jews themselves,” he said. “I am very pleased with the decision for restoration.”

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