The Suez Canal, Port Said to Suez, Egypt


The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez


“It is recorded that Egypt was the first country to dig a canal across its land with a view to activate world trade.  The Suez Canal is considered to be the shortest link between the east and the west due to its unique geographic location; it is an important international navigation canal linking between the Mediterranean sea at Port said and the red sea at Suez.  The idea of linking the Mediterranean sea with the red sea by a canal dates back to 40 centuries as it was pointed out through history starting by the pharaohs era passing by the Islamic era until it was dredged reaching its current condition today.  It is considered to be the first artificial canal to be used in Travel and Trade.  The Whole Idea of establishing a canal linking between the red sea and the Mediterranean dates back to the oldest times, as Egypt dredged the first artificial canal on the planet’s surface.  The pharaohs dredged a canal link in between river Nile and the red sea.” –



Because there is only one automobile/truck bridge and one railway bridge crossing The Suez Canal, Egypt, there are numerous car ferries that cross the short distance between the two shores


“The Suez Canal (Arabic: ‫قناة السويس‎‎ Qanāt al-Suways) is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez.  It was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, after 10 years of construction, it was officially opened on November 17, 1869.  The canal offers watercraft a shorter journey between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans via the Mediterranean and Red seas by avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans, in turn reducing the journey by approximately 7,000 kilometres (4,300 miles).  It extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez.  Its length is 193.30 km (120.11 mi), including its northern and southern access channels.  In 2012, 17,225 vessels traversed the canal (47 per day).



As the lead ship early in the morning in a convoy heading south through The Suez Canal, Port Said to Suez, Egypt, we were “shadowed” by what appears to be an Egyptian military truck


“The canal is a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake.  It contains no locks system, with seawater flowing freely through it.  In general, the canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer.  South of the lakes, the current changes with the tide at Suez.

“The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt.  Under the Convention of Constantinople, it may be used “in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.



A new channel, expanding the canal (dubbed “The New Suez Canal”) opened with great fanfare on 6 August 2015; The Suez Canal, Port Said to Suez, Egypt


“In August 2014, construction was launched to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass for 35 km (22 mi) to speed the canal’s transit time. The expansion was planned to double the capacity of the Suez Canal from 49 to 97 ships a day. At a cost of $8.4 billion, this project was funded with interest-bearing investment certificates issued exclusively to Egyptian entities and individuals. The “New Suez Canal”, as the expansion was dubbed, was opened with great fanfare in a ceremony on 6 August 2015.” – Wikipedia



The “Welcome to Egypt” sign on the side of the canal signaled to us that we must be approaching Suez, as we sailed south through the Suez Canal, Port Said to Suez, Egypt


Before we transited the Panama Canal last year, we read David McCullough’s excellent historical account of the challenges of building the canal across Central America, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914. The “King of France”, as Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps was known after he successfully built the Suez Canal, attempted to repeat his earlier success in Central America and was defeated by the terrain and malaria. McCullough gives a brief history of the Suez Canal construction project and notes that it was (in my terms) “a walk in the park” compared to the challenges of building a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in Central America. We highly recommend his book. The following brief introduction to de Lesseps is from the Suez Canal Authority.

“Then, in 1833, a group of French intellectuals known as the Saint-Simoniens arrived in Cairo and they became very interested in the Suez project despite such problems as the difference in sea levels. Unfortunately, at that time Mohammed Ali had little interest in the project, and in 1835, the Saint-Simoniens were devastated by a plague epidemic. Most of the twenty or so engineers returned to France. They did leave behind several enthusiasts for the canal, including Ferdinand de Lesseps (who was then the French vice-consul in Alexandria) and Linant de Bellefonds

“In Paris, the Saint-Simoniens created an association in 1846 to study the possibility of the Suez Canal once again. In 1847, Bourdaloue confirmed that there was no real difference in the levels between the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and it was Linant de Bellefonds that drew up the technical report. Unfortunately, there was considerable British opposition to the project, and Mohammed Ali, who was ill by this time, was less than enthusiastic.

“In 1854 the French diplomat and engineer Vicomte Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps succeeded in enlisting the interest of the Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha in the project. In 1858 La Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez (Universal Company of the Maritime Suez Canal) was formed with authority to cut a canal and to operate it for 99 years, after which ownership would return to the Egyptian government. The company was originally a private Egyptian concern, its stock owned chiefly by French and Egyptian interests. In 1875 the British government purchased Egypt’s shares.” –



The greenery, after miles and miles of desert, told us that we were approaching the city of Suez as we sailed south on the Suez Canal, Port Said to Suez, Egypt



The city of Suez viewed from The Suez Canal, Port Said to Suez, Egypt



Looking back at the city of Suez as we sailed south in the Bay of Suez after leaving the Suez Canal, Egypt


The wind was kicking up big sandstorms in the industrial region of the city of Suez, visible after we completed our transit of the Suez Canal, Port Said to Suez, Egypt



Holocaust survivor Hannah Goslar Pick, a close friend of Amsterdam’s Anne Frank, told us “we have to try and live in peace together”, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel


The Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel, a memorial to the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust (out of the total 6 million who were killed)



That admonition was brought home in a most personal way when we had the opportunity to sit spellbound in the Education Center at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel, and listen to the amazing personal life story of a Holocaust survivor.  As Hannah Goslar Pick’s story unfolded [see The Jerusalem Post article, below], we realized that she was a close personal friend of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl from Amsterdam who perished at the Nazi’s Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 (Anne’s father published her diary after the end of World War II in 1947– Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl).  Hannah and Anne Frank’s lives and stories are closely intertwined.  We had previously visited the Anne Frank house and museum in Amsterdam and in May 2016 saw the highly acclaimed play, Anne, in a purpose-built theater in Amsterdam, which told the story of the hiding of the Frank family during World War II until they were betrayed and sent to concentration camps.



We were spellbound for 75 minutes as 88-year old Holocaust survivor Hannah Goslar Pick, a close friend of Amsterdam’s Anne Frank, told a small group of eight of us her life story at the Education Center at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel


Hannah Goslar Pick’s life story has been recorded at Yad Vashem as part of their Holocaust survivor program.  She frequently meets with school groups to tell children her life story and has been very active with groups around the world to tell both her story and that of her close childhood friend, Anne Frank.  The following dialogue with students is from the Scholastic web site (www.

What do you feel is most important for people to be educated about in terms of the Holocaust? [A question posed by a student]

“To think about why did it happen at all.  We were just children.  They started to make a war on us — took our freedom without any reason.  People should know about the cruelty — it was unnecessary.  It’s important to understand what happened so it doesn’t happen again.  People need to understand that discrimination doesn’t lead to anything good.  I always say that the only thing Anne Frank did was that she was born Jewish, and for that she had to die.  She could’ve given a lot to mankind.” – Hannah Goslar Pick

Hanneli, do you have any final words for the audience? [A question posed by a student]

I think that people have to try and live in peace together.  If you want to learn more about me, you can read my book.  It’s called Reflections of a Childhood Friend: Memories of Anne Frank by Alison Leslie Gold.  It’s published by Scholastic.  There’s another book by Anchor Books called The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank.


The following newspaper interview with Holocaust survivor Hannah Goslar Pick incorporates some of the longer life story that she gave us in our meeting at Yad Vashem.  We look forward to reading her biography (cited above) and learning more about this remarkably upbeat woman whose life is now dedicated to helping us all “never forget” and reminding us that we all have to “try and live in peace together”.

Anne Frank’s childhood friend: We have to try to live in peace together

By Aviva Loeb, The Jerusalem Post, published 22 July 2014

Hannah Goslar Pick talks to the ‘Post’ in her Jerusalem home and offers her views on Israel’s situation today.

From her brightly lit apartment in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, stacked high with books about Israel and Judaism, photographs of her family and stuffed animals, Hannah Goslar Pick reflects on her time with her now-famous childhood friend, Anne Frank, and offers her views on Israel’s situation today

Pick has no solution to the current violence, and doesn’t want to “talk politics,” but is ready to share some of her life’s wisdom.

“We are all human beings and we have to try to live in peace together,” she says, thoughtfully, in perfect English.  “I would very much like peace.  I have a lot of grandchildren and I don’t want them to die.  But it’s very hard. I think murder is murder is murder – and it is bad.

She says a German friend recently called her to tell her that a German television station had reported that ‘all the trouble started because the Jews killed an Arab boy.’

 He phoned them, and told them, “No, it started because the Arabs killed three Jewish boys.  And that night, when he turned on the television, they changed it.  He was so happy, he had to phone me to tell me.  So I had to tell you.”

 Pick, a Holocaust survivor who was born in Berlin on November 12, 1928, and spent over a year in Bergen-Belsen, is one of the last people to have spoken to Anne Frank (whom she calls Anna) before the latter’s death in Auschwitz in March, 1945.

 Described in Frank’s diary as one of her best friends, the two girls first met at an Amsterdam grocery store while shopping with their mothers shortly after both families fled from Germany in 1933.

 “It was our first week in Holland, and we met another refugee lady in the store.  It was Mrs. Frank with her daughter,” Pick relates, as if it were yesterday.  “The ladies spoke in German. Nobody knew Dutch at the time.  We little girls looked at each other and several days later, Mother brings me to kindergarten and I see the back of that little girl.  She was making music on little bells.  I didn’t know anyone.  I didn’t know the language.  I wanted to go home.”

Hannah remembers with a sad smile that when Anne saw her, “She turned around and ran into my arms.”

 “It was also her first day in kindergarten.  She also didn’t know anyone, not the children, not the language,” Pick says.  “From that moment we were friends, and then our parents made friends through us. We lived entrance next to entrance.”

 HANNAH AND Anne attended the Sixth Public Montessori School (now the Anne Frank School) in Amsterdam and later went to the Jewish Lyceum.

 She notes that the two girls appears in a photograph at Anne’s 10th birthday party.  (Anne Frank would have been 85 on June 12 this year).  Pick says it seemed strangely funny now because a year later, the first girl in the photo wouldn’t have been allowed to come because her parents had been Nazis.

 “In ’39 nobody thought about it. She was just one of the girls who was invited,” Pick says.

 Pick says only she and one other girl in the photograph are still alive today.  Jacqueline van Maarsen, who is also 85, still lives in Amsterdam.

 Pick describes Frank as being “a mischievous little girl.”  Anne liked to take her shoulder out of its socket at school, she remembers.

 “She would sit in the front of the class, and you wouldn’t see it, you just would hear it, like ‘clack clack, clack clack.’”  In her diary, Anne describes Hannah as “usually shy” around other people but outspoken at home.

 “She says what she thinks, and lately I’ve come to appreciate that a great deal,” Anne writes.

 Frank never let her friends see what she was writing.  Pick remembers that Anne would always be shielding it with her hand as she wrote.  They didn’t even know it was a daily diary at the time.

 “If somebody would dare to ask, she would say, ‘It’s none of your business,’” Pick says.

 Years later, she was given a chance to read the diary including the excerpts about herself.

 Anne wrote about Hannah several times in the diary, describing her personality and her life at home, and calling the Goslar household “really a sight.”  After going into hiding, she wrote that “Hanneli,” as Hannah was then called, appeared in her dreams.

 The young girl wrote that she hadn’t thought of her school friend, Hanneli, for at least a year before the first dream.

 “I hadn’t forgotten about her entirely and yet it wasn’t until I saw her before me that I thought of all her suffering,” she writes in the diary on November 27, 1943, nearly a year and a half after she went into hiding.

 She dreamed of Hanneli once more in December that year.  She wondered if her friend was still alive and asked God to watch over her.

 “Hanneli, you’re a reminder of what my fate could have been,” Anne writes.  “I hope that you live to the end of the war and return to us.”

 PICK THINKS that in part, Frank’s story is so famous because the diary is so well-written, especially for a girl of her age.  She says that after the war, she went back to the school that she and Anne had attended, and spoke to the director.

 The director told her, “If you meet a little girl and you close her away from everything, from friends from animals, from flowers, and then she is closed up, she develops much faster than when she is living normally.”

 To this day, she vividly remembers her last meeting with Anne.  She had heard that 7,000 Jewish women had been moved to a camp next to hers in Bergen-Belsen.

 “The Germans built a high fence so we couldn’t see the women, but we heard them,” Pick says.  “It was forbidden to go near the fence.”

 One day in February, someone told her that her friend Anne Frank was on the other side of the fence.

 At first, Pick remembers being sad, because she had hoped her friend was safe in Switzerland with her grandmother, as she had planned.

 Hannah went as close to the fence as she could one night, and called out very softly, “Hello, hello.”  The woman who answered her was Auguste van Pels, known in Anne’s diary as Mrs. van Daan, one of the other people in hiding with the Frank family.  She told Hannah that she could go and get Anne, but her sister Margot was too weak to come.

 “After several minutes, a very sad voice was calling me and it was Anna,” Hannah says. “First thing, we both cried and said, ‘How did you come here?’” Anne told Hannah that she never made it to Switzerland and instead had been in hiding, but her family had been betrayed. Hannah told her friend that her mother had died, and her father was very sick.

 Hannah remembers Anne telling her that she had nobody anymore, which turned out not to be true.

 Later, Pick found out from Otto Frank, Anne’s father, that in Auschwitz everyone who was over 55 was sent straight to the gas chambers.

 He was 56, but looked much younger and could still work.  Anne had no way of knowing, but her father had been able to pass through with the younger group and survived.

 From across the fence, Hannah said Anne had asked her for food.

 “I said, ‘Anna come again in two or three days, we will see what I can do.’”  She came back with a package of food and told her friend that she would throw it over the fence.

 “The fence was high and the night was dark and there were hundreds of women,” Hannah says. “Another woman caught the package and ran away with it.”

 Anne cried, and Hannah remembers consoling her by telling her they should try again in a few days.

 The second time, when Hannah threw a package of bread and socks over the fence, Anne caught it.

 They had plans to try again, Pick says, but then Hannah’s father died, and she had to sit shiva for a week.

 “When I came again, everything was empty,” she says. “I didn’t know what had happened to them.”

 AFTER THE war was over, Hannah reconnected with Otto Frank, who informed her of his daughter’s tragic fate.

 “They had to die with one-and-a-half-million other Jewish children who never did harm to anyone,” she says.

 Hannah is sure Anne would have felt “very good” if she knew her diary had been published and become an international best-seller.

 She said Anne herself had wanted to turn it into a book, and rewrote it several times.

 Anne Frank’s story is important to tell so that what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust may never happen again, Pick says.  It gives people a glimpse into what life was like for Jews during the war.

 “I think they [people] don’t understand what the Germans did to us,” she says. “How people can behave like this.”

 She said that it’s still very difficult to fully understand what happened, and that she herself has a hard time comprehending what occurred in other concentration camps.

 “I was not in Auschwitz, and if I read about Auschwitz, I also cannot understand,” Pick says.

 She attributes her survival in Bergen- Belsen in large part to her little sister, Gabi, who is 12 years younger.

 “I saved her and she saved me,” Picks says. “If you were a mother and daughter, or two sisters or even two cousins, it was a little bit easier.”

 IN 1943, Hannah and Gabi, together with her father, Hans (her mother, Edith, died in 1942), and her maternal grandparents were sent to the Westerbork transit camp and then to Bergen-Belsen. Hannah and Gabi survived 14 months at Bergen- Belsen.  Her father and maternal grandparents all died of illness before the liberation. In 1947, Hannah and Gabi made aliya to Jerusalem.

 Both sisters now live in Israel with a large extended family – children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 Pick, who trained and worked as a nurse, married Dr. Walter Pinchass, and had three children.  She has 11 grandchildren, two of whom live in Jerusalem with five great-grandchildren.

 She recently traveled with her daughter and grand-daughter to Amsterdam to see a new play about Anne Frank.

 Pick says she devotes time to speaking to Israeli children and schools about the Shoah.

 “The message I try to get across is that things like this should never happen again.”  Asked if thinks they can, she whispers: “No.”

 She also encourages young Jews abroad to make aliya, especially from America.

 “Come and help build the country,” she tells me.

 Asked if she is optimistic or pessimistic about the future, she says, laughing:  “In the middle.  I want to be optimistic.”

Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel


The Holocaust History Museum is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary and presents the story of the Shoah from a unique Jewish perspective, emphasizing the experiences of the individual victims through original artifacts, survivor testimonies and personal possessions, Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel


One of our most moving experiences during our visit to Jerusalem was a return visit to Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.  We toured most of the complex, including the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations (where there is a tree planted to honor Oscar Schindler, among many other gentiles who helped save Jews during the Holocaust), the Hall of Remembrance, the Children’s Memorial, the Holocaust History Museum, and the Education Center where we met with a Holocaust survivor who told our small group of eight her life story [see our next blog post].



The Hall of Remembrance is a memorial to all the victims of the Holocaust with an eternal flame in a building designed after a gas chamber at Auschwitz replete with a hole in the ceiling where the Nazis dropped Zyklon-B (a cyanide-based pesticide) pellets to release gas that killed the innocent victims in the so-called “shower” room, Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel


“Established in 1953, Yad Vashem is on the western slope of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, 804 meters (2,638 feet) above sea level and adjacent to the Jerusalem Forest.  The memorial consists of a 180-dunam (18.0 ha; 44.5-acre) complex containing the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites such as the Children’s Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, a research institute with archives, a library, a publishing house, and an educational center, The International School/Institute for Holocaust Studies.  A core goal of Yad Vashem’s founders was to recognize gentiles who, at personal risk and without a financial or evangelistic motive, chose to save their Jewish brethren from the ongoing genocide during the Holocaust.  Those recognized by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations are honored in a section of Yad Vashem known as the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations.  After the Western Wall, Yad Vashem is the second-most-visited Israeli tourist site.  Its curators charge no fee for admission and welcome approximately one million visitors a year.” – Wikipedia



The skylight “roof” of The Holocaust History Museum, Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, Jerusalem, Israel


Jerusalem, Israel


One of Jerusalem, Israel’s, most visible religious sites is the Dome of the Rock (a 7th-century Islamic shrine with a gold dome on the Temple Mount in the walled Old City


“Jerusalem, Israel, a Middle Eastern city west of the Dead Sea, has been a place of pilgrimage and worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims since the biblical era.  Its Old City has significant religious sites around the Temple Mount compound, including the Western Wall (sacred to Judaism), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (a Christian pilgrimage site) and the Dome of the Rock (a 7th-century Islamic shrine with a gold dome).” – Wikipedia



In front of a mosaic depicting the anointing of Jesus with olive oil in preparation for burial, after he was taken off his crucifixion cross, are lamps hanging above the Anointing Stone, the 13th Station of the Cross, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christian Quarter, the (walled) Old City, Jerusalem, Israel


A small group of us traveled from the ship, docked in Haifa, Israel, to Jerusalem for a very quick, two-day visit.  There is so much to see and do that our two-days there only enabled us to begin to explore the city’s 4,000-year history and the numerous sites and artifacts sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  “What has not already been said about the holiest city in the world, the city that has been united, the eternal city first built thousands of years ago, whose history can be heard in the whispering of the wind along the walls, where every stone tells a wondrous story of a city that has drawn millions of faithful pilgrims for thousands of years.  Such is Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the only city in the world that has 70 names of love and yearning, the city that in old maps appears at the center of the world and is still adored like a young bride.
  Jerusalem is a city of overwhelming emotions, a city that promises a religious and spiritual experience, excitement and pleasure, interesting tours and entertaining adventures.  Here, alongside Jerusalem’s fascinating historic and archeological sites, there are amazingly modern tourist attractions for all lovers of culture, the arts, theater and music, architecture and gastronomic delights.” —

“At Jerusalem’s heart is the Old City, which is surrounded by a wall and divided into four quarters – Jewish, Armenian, Christian, and Muslim.  Inside the walls are the important holy sites of the three major religions: the Western Wall, which is holy to the Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock and the Temple Mount.” —

“Jerusalem is also very important to Christianity, as Jesus Christ lived and died here.  The Christian quarter alone houses some 40 religious buildings (churches, monasteries and pilgrims’ hostels).  One of the most prominent and important sites in the Christian quarter is the Via Dolorosa, the ‘Way of Sorrows,’ Jesus’ final path, which according to Christian tradition led from the courthouse to Golgotha Hill, where he was crucified and buried.  Many pilgrims come to Jerusalem to follow Jesus’ footsteps along a route that starts in the Muslim Quarter, at Lions’ Gate, and passes the 14 stations of the cross, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Several of the most important Christian relics are housed in this church, including the anointing stone (on which Jesus’ body was laid before his burial) and Jesus’ grave.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a pilgrimage site for millions of Christians from all over the world.” —



The gold dome of the Islamic Dome of the Rock is visible above the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel; the Western Wall plaza is visited by millions of worshipers — at the base of the massive wall (a remnant of the Second Jewish Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.) prayers are offered and notes containing heartfelt wishes are wedged between the crevices



Praying at the Western Wall, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel



In recent years the Western Wall plaza has been divided into two sections, one (left side) for men to approach the wall and pray, and a second (right side) for women – on the afternoon we visited there were many more women than men at the wall, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel



An olive tree that is over 2,000 years old in the garden of Gethsemane (adjacent to the Church of Gethsemane — also known as the Church of All Nations or the Church of the Agony — originally built in the 4th century A.D.), where Jesus spent time after the Last Supper (a Passover Seder in the Old City) before the Romans arrested him (and then crucified him), Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel



The Knesset (Parliament) of Israel in the Government District in the New City, Jerusalem, Israel



A model of the Old City of Jerusalem (“The Holyland Model of Jerusalem”, 1966, based on the writings of Josephus) as imagined at the time of Jesus with the Second Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount (upper right corner of the photograph), Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel



The Second Jewish Temple (built in 516 BC and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.) in the center of the Temple Mount in the model of the Old City, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel



Close-up of he Second Jewish Temple (built in 516 BC and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.) in the center of the Temple Mount in the model of the Old City, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel



The inside of the Shrine of the Book, a wing of the Israel Museum that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls (a facsimile of the parchment complete Book of Isaiah from the Bible is in the center display) – designed to represent the lid of one of the clay amphorae in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947-1956, Jerusalem, Israel



A close-up of the Isaiah scroll, dating from the second century BC, the most intact of the Dead Sea Scrolls; the Shrine of the Book also houses the Aleppo Codex, dating from the 10th century CE, the oldest existing Hebrew Bible – which I was unable to photograph, Jerusalem, Israel


“If you are wondering how Jerusalem became such a center of religions and spirituality and a pilgrimage site for millions of tourists from around the world, the answer begins thousands of years ago.  Jerusalem’s history is one of wars and struggles. Its strategic location attracted many nations that wanted to capture the city, and some of them did rule over it for various periods.  This city has known war and peace, love and hate, riches and poverty, destruction and renewal, happiness and pain.

“According to Jewish tradition, the creation of the world began (5766 years ago) with the foundation stone on Mount Moriah (under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount).  This is where an important royal Can’anite city was built (about 4,000 years ago), and which was conquered from the Jebusites by King David in 1004 BCE and became the capital of his kingdom and a holy city.  David’s son Solomon built the First Temple and his descendants (Hezekiah, Zedekiah and the Judean Kings) continued to enlarge and fortify the city’s boundaries, and to build a water supply system (Hezekiah’s tunnel).  These efforts paid off, and when King Sennacherib of Assyria besieged Jerusalem he could not subdue the city and withdrew.  Only in 586 BCE did Nebuchadnezzar conquer the Jewish capital.  The city was destroyed and most of its inhabitants exiled to Babylon.  In 538 BCE Xerxes, the King of Persia, who has conquered Babylon, permitted the exiled Jews to return to Judea and Jerusalem, where they rebuilt the city and built the Second Temple.  For 370 years Judea was an autonomous district, first under the Persians and then under the Greeks.  After the Hasmonean Revolt in 168 BCE, Jerusalem again became the capital of a Kingdom, that later became under the rule of the Roman Empire.  King Herod the Great further expanded the Temple in the years 73-4 BCE.

“At the end of the Second Temple period Jerusalem was a city of great social and religious tension.  It was during this period that Jesus was preaching in Nazareth.  In 66 CE the Jews rebelled against the Roman Empire and took over Jerusalem.  The suppression of this revolt ended in 70 CE, and the Romans, led by Titus, conquered the capital, destroyed the Temple completely and exiled the city’s inhabitants.  For the next 60 years Jerusalem was desolate, until the Bar Kokhba Revolt, when the Jews returned for a short while.  In 135 CE, the Romans rebuilt and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina and barred the Jews from living there.

“After the Roman Empire accepted Christianity in 324 (and later became the Byzantine Empire), Jerusalem again became an important city.  The site’s connected with Jesus’ life and death were located and declared holy, and many magnificent churches were built, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the Church of the Resurrection) and the “Mother of all the Churches,” on Mt. Zion.

“In 638 the Muslims conquered Jerusalem and built the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque over the next few centuries.  Following the Muslim conquest the Jews returned to Jerusalem, and around the 10th century this city again became the spiritual capital for the Jews of the Land of Israel.

“The Crusaders also wanted to rule Jerusalem.  They conquered the city in 1099, massacred the Jewish and Muslim residents and made Jerusalem their own capital.  Less than 100 years later, in 1187, the Crusaders were defeated by Saladin a battle at Khitin. At that time the Jews returned to Jerusalem and have been here ever since.

“In 1250 the Mamluk dynasty rose to power in Egypt and its rulers conquered this region and became the new lords of Jerusalem.  In 1517 the Ottoman Empire spread to Jerusalem and for 400 years was under Turkish rule.  During the first 100 years the city flourished and its walls were rebuilt.  In the second half of the 16th century, as the Ottoman Empire began to decline, so did Jerusalem’s fortunes.

“By the beginning of the 19th century Jerusalem was a small neglected city inside its walls, and only toward the end of the century (from 1860 onward), did the New City begin to grow, thanks to the generosity of British philanthropist Moshe Montifiore, who financed the construction of Mishkenot Sha’ananim.  The success of this new neighborhood led to more neighborhoods being built outside the walls. More Jews began moving to Jerusalem, becoming a majority of the population in 1873.

“In 1917, with the start of the British Mandate period, Jerusalem retained its status as the capital of the land.  When Israel was established in 1948, Jerusalem was declared the state capital, and all the major government institutions were built here.  These including the Knesset (Israel’s parliament building), the Supreme Court and the various government offices.

“During the War of Independence, following bloody battles and ceasefire agreements, Jerusalem was left divided between Israel and Jordan, until the capital’s liberation in the Six Day War in 1967, when the two parts of the city were united and Jerusalem became Israel’s largest city.” —


The Archaeological Site of Kato Pafos (Lower, or “New”, Paphos), Cyprus


A team from a university in Poland, under the supervision of Cypriot archaeologists, conducting a dig in a portion of the Agora of Kato Pathos (the forum, or central meeting place, of the city), Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus


“Paphos, Cyprus, has been inhabited since the Neolithic period.  It was a centre of the cult of Aphrodite and of pre-Hellenic fertility deities.  Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace was on this island, where her temple was erected by the Myceneans in the 12th century B.C.  The remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs mean that the site is of exceptional architectural and historic value.  The mosaics of Nea Paphos are among the most beautiful in the world.

“Paphos, which has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, was a centre of the cult of Aphrodite and of pre-Hellenic fertility deities.  Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace was on the island of Cyprus, where her temple was erected by the Myceneans in the 12th century BC and continued to be used until the Roman period.  The site is a vast archaeological area, with remains of villas, palaces, theatres, fortresses and tombs.  These illustrate Paphos’ exceptional architectural and historic value and contribute extensively to our understanding of ancient architecture, ways of life, and thinking.  The villas are richly adorned with mosaic floors that are among the most beautiful in the world.  These mosaics constitute an illuminated album of ancient Greek mythology, with representations of Greek gods, goddesses and heroes, as well as activities of everyday life.” –



Mosaics from The House of Aion (3rd – 5th c. A.D.): The central panel of the main room is divided into five smaller panels, each depicting a different mythological scene, such as Leda and the Swan, the Ephinay of Dionysos, the beauty contest between Cassiopeia and the Nereids, the punishment of Marsyas — in the center of the composition is the depiction of the god Aion, the personification of time, whose name was given to the house; Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus


“The inclusion of the Kato Paphos archaeological site in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list in 1980 was the starting point for the creation of a General Plan whose aim would be primarily to protect and maintain the archaeological remains, as well as to promote them and provide comprehensive information to visitors.  Kato Pafor archaeological Park includes sites and monuments from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages, while most of the remains date to the Roman period.  The marvelous mosaic floors of the Roman villas form the impressive epicenter of the finds.” – Source: Cyprus Tourism Organisation



Mosaics from The House of Aion (3rd – 5th c. A.D.): portion of the lower left panel of the central panel in the main room, showing a half-naked Maenad leading the Triumphal Procession of the god Dionysos through the world; Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



Mosaics from The House of Aion (3rd – 5th c. A.D.): in the center of the composition is the depiction of the god Aion, the personification of time, whose name was given to the house; Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus


“A country’s cultural heritage is the most important living treasure of its people.  It is through this that its identity can be expressed and an awareness of its historical continuity through time can be created.  Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean.  It is situated at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa.  This geographic position has since antiquity played an important part in the island’s turbulent history.  Its prehistoric age inhabitants were joined by Mycenaean Greeks 3500 years ago, who introduced and established their civilization, thus permanently instilling the island’s Greek roots.  Many other cultures followed since then, including Phoenicians, Assyrians, Franks, Venetians, Ottomans, British, all leaving behind visible traces of their passage.” – Source: Cyprus Tourism Organisation



The House of Theseus (Roman period, ~ 300 A.D.), Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



The mosaic floor of room 36 of the House of Theseus, depicting, in a medallion, the mythical duel between Theseus and the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Crete [see our previous post, “The Great Palace of Knossos (Minoan era), Heraklion, Crete, Greece”].  In the center of the scene Theseus is depicted holding a club in his right hand, while with his left hand he grabs the horn of the Minotaur, who has fallen to his knees. On the left side of the scene is a personification of the Labyrinth as an old man watching the duel. Above the rocks are the personifications of the island of Crete and the goddess Ariadne; Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



The above scene in the mosaic floor of room 36 of the House of Theseus is framed by successive decorative zones that symbolize the Labyrinth; the frame consists of a chain of diamonds and colorful tresses that symbolize the thread of Ariadne; Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



Columns of The House of Theseus (Roman period, ~ 300 A.D.), Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



“Tools of the trade” for the archaeologists working on site at Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus


The House of Dionysos was a luxurious Roman residence with an atrium and an impluvium, a central open court surrounded by a colonnaded portico, and a wealth of mosaic floors.  It was built during the end of the 2nd century A.D. and was destroyed in the first half of the 4th century A.D., probably due to earthquakes.  The house was constructed on earlier buildings, the earliest of which was a sanctuary carved into the natural bedrock.  Just over 25% of the building is decorated with mosaic floors!  The building has been named the “House of Dionysos”, as many of the mosaics depict scenes related to the worship of the god Dionysos.  All the mosaic are in situ except one.  The house was excavated between 1962 and 1965 by Dr. Kyriacos Nikolaou, then Curator of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities.



A tiger in a long hunting scene mosaic panel floor in The House of Dionysos, a luxurious Roman residence built during the end of the 2nd century A.D., Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



The first of four panels in Room 16 of The House of Dionysos, a luxurious Roman residence built during the end of the 2nd century A.D., depicting the mythological love story of Pyramos and Thisbe, Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



The “Four Seasons” mosaic in Room 3 of The House of Dionysos, a luxurious Roman residence built during the end of the 2nd century A.D. with anthropomorphic representations: centrally, an unidentifiable figure (probably Dionysos, Aion, or the personification of some concept such as the genius of the Year), and in the four corners, the personification of the Four Seasons; Spring and Summer are represented in the upper corners, while Winter and Fall in the lower corners; Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



The “Odeon” (theater like space) adjacent to the Agora of Kato Pathos (the forum, or central meeting place, of the city), Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus



The archaeological dig continues, with tedious work carried out by all members of the team, as they seek to reveal new treasures at Kato Pafos Archaeological Site, Cyprus


The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece


Dating back to the 4th century BC, The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece, sits atop a rock on the highest point above the town of Lindos in the southeast of the island


“Nestling at the foot of a steep rock and beautifully surrounded by the sea lies the traditional settlement of Líndos; on the top of the same rock stands a centuries-old acropolis, proudly overlooking the archipelagos.  The acropolis bears silent witness to Líndos’ glorious past, a major naval power of ancient times which reputedly had a population of 17,000.”



The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece, is surrounded by a Hellenistic wall dating back to the 4th century BC


“According to tradition the temple of Athena on the acropolis was founded by Danaus, who came to the island with his 50 daughters to escape the rage of the goddess Hera.  Follow the same ancient path that the ancient Rhodians took.  When you reach the acropolis you will see a 280 BC relief of a Rhodian Trireme (ancient Greek warship) carved into the rock, an indication of the naval power of ancient Rhodes.  On the bow of the Trireme stood a statue of General Agesander, sculpted by Pythokritos.  Did you know that the first naval code, the famous “Rhodian Naval Code”, a code of international law and one of the most important legal documents in the world was written here in Rhodes?  The emperor Antonio wrote of the Rhodian Naval Code:  We may rule the world but the Rhodian Code rules the seas!



A partial reconstruction of a temple in The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece


“Through an ancient old gate you enter the world of the magnificent acropolis; on the first level you can see more recent buildings like the 1317 Castle of the Knights of St John, which was built on the foundations of an older Byzantine fortification.  There is also the Greek Orthodox Church of St John, built on the ruins of an older church. The Knights significantly strengthened the fortifications of the acropolis, turning Líndos into a powerful fortified castle.  On the second level to the south you can marvel at the remains of the 300 BC Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, which was built on the site of an earlier temple [see photograph, below].  At the entrance to the acropolis there is a Hellenistic stoa (covered walkway) where vaulted constructions that were once underground water storage tanks are still visible.



Staircase of the Propylaia (a monumental gateway in Greek architecture), The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece



Doric columns (reconstructed) at the base of the staircase of the Propylaia, The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece


“A monumental staircase leads to the upper level of the sanctuary consisting of the 4th century BC buildings: the Propýlea (gateways) that were built in the same style as the Athenian Propýlea, a big peristyle open air courtyard and a small Doric temple of Athena, where the statue dedicated to the Goddess by Danaus and his daughters was situated and worshipped; from this position the sweeping views of the Aegean will take your breath away…” —



Partial reconstruction of the metopes (rectangular architectural elements that fill the space between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze, which is a decorative band of alternating triglyphs and metopes above the architrave of a building of the Doric order) atop the columns of a stoa at the base of the staircase to the Propylaia, The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece



Partially reconstructed Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, dating to 300 BC, The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece



Columns atop the fortress of The Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece, with the shadow of columns of the Temple of Athena Lindia, just before sunset


Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Dodecanese, Greece


A panorama of the harbors and town of Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Greece, taken from the church courtyard atop the the hill in Chorio, after hiking up the hillside


Sailing into Gialos (Yialos) harbor on Symi Island in the Dodecanese Island chain of12 islands, near Turkey, is like sailing into a picture-perfect postcard.



The brightly painted shops, houses and churches are terraced straight up the hills surrounding the harbors of Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Dodecanese, Greece


Pastel Neoclassical mansions, built during Symi’s heyday as a shipbuilding and sponge diving center, line the hillsides above the port.  From the harbor town of Gialos (Yialos) we climbed hundreds of steps (many painted the bright Greek-blue color!) up to the older Chorio section of town.  Along the way, and especially from the churchyard atop the hill, we had sweeping views of the harbor and Symi Bay.  Both the older Chorio section and Gialos (Yialos) were full of cafés, restaurants, shops (particularly sponges, jewelry, and clothing), churches and brightly painted homes.  On two different days we had excellent fresh seafood and local fish luncheons at different small restaurants with outdoor covered terraces on the harbor’s edge, overlooking the harbor and Symi Bay.



Our ship anchored outside the harbor of Gialos (Yialos), Symi, viewed from the hiking trail above a private beach club and restaurant on the point



Entrance to a large private home, hinting at the former glory of the residence, Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Dodecanese, Greece



We climbed hundreds of steps (many painted the bright Greek-blue color!) up to the older Chorio section of town, above the harbor of Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Dodecanese, Greece



A composition of Greek-blue doors in Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Dodecanese, Greece



A palatial opportunity for a fixer-upper real estate developer, Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Dodecanese, Greece



The idyllic setting of the harbors of Gialos (Yialos), Symi, Dodecanese, Greece



Greek Orthodox church bell tower in Chorio, Symi, Dodecanese, Greece



The upper portion of Chorio, Symi, Greece, that is not visible from the harbor of Gialos (Yialos) — behind the church at the top of the hill above Gialos (Yialos)



Another Greek Orthodox church bell tower in Chorio, Symi, Dodecanese, Greece



A local homeowner cleaning the public path (steps) in front of her home in Chorio, Symi, Greece


The Great Palace of Knossos (Minoan era), Heraklion, Crete, Greece


The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece was gradually built between 1700 and 1400 BC with 1,300 rooms and is believed to have been the home of the (mythical) King Minos and the source of the legend of the labyrinth and the minatour


Crete was the center of the once-mighty Minoan civilization, a major power for over a millennium.  The Great Palace of Knossos is the largest and most spectacular of all the Minoan palaces, dating from 1700 BC, with over 1,000 rooms.  Knossos was the court of the legendary King Minos, whose wife Pasiphae gave birth to the Minotaur, the mythical creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man.  The Great Palace of Knossos is also the site of the mythical labyrinth.  Around 1700 BC, the Palace and the area around it had a population of around 100,000 people!



Pithoi (storage jars, like these, which stored wet and dry consumables, such as wine, oil and grain; when full, they were multi-ton and immovable), The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece


“The Minoan civilization was an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands and flourished from approximately 3650 to 1400 BCE.  It belongs to a period of Greek history preceding both the Mycean civilization [see our earlier blog on Mycenae, Greece] and Ancient Greece.  It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of British [amateur] archaeologist Arthur Evans.  Historian Will Durant dubbed the Minoans ‘the first link in the European chain,’ and their civilization has been referred to as the earliest of its kind in Europe. The term ‘Minoan’ refers to the mythic King Minos, and was originally given as a description to the pottery of this period.  Minos was associated in Greek myth with the labyrinth and the Minotaur, which Evans identified with the site at Knossos, the largest Minoan site.” — Wikipedia

Our guide pointed out an interesting fact:  Around 1,700 BC there were three great western civilizations in the world: the Egyptians, the Minoans (the first European civilization) and the Mesopotamians.  The Minoan civilization declined within a few centuries and the emerging Greek civilization was the Myceans, who were followed by the classical Greeks (around 500 BC, with their heyday around 350 BC) and then the Romans.



The 1,300 rooms of the Palace are connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction, which differ from other contemporaneous palaces that connected the rooms via several main hallways (hence the association with the Minoan labyrinth); The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece


“The great palace [of Knossos] was gradually built between 1700 and 1400 BC, with periodic re-buildings after destruction.  Structures preceded it on Kephala hill.  The features currently most visible date mainly to the last period of habitation, which Evans termed Late Minoan.  The palace has an interesting layout – the original plan can no longer be seen due to the subsequent modifications.  The 1,300 rooms are connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction, which differ from other contemporaneous palaces that connected the rooms via several main hallways.  The 6 acres (24,000 m2) of the palace included a theater, a main entrance on each of its four cardinal faces, and extensive storerooms (also called magazines).  Within the storerooms were large clay containers (pithoi) that held oil, grains, dried fish, beans, and olives.  Many of the items were processed at the palace, which had grain mills, oil presses, and wine presses.  Beneath the pithoi were stone holes that were used to store more valuable objects, such as gold.  The palace used advanced architectural techniques: for example, part of it was built up to five stories high.” — Wikipedia

Additionally, the palace had at least three separate liquid management systems, one for supply, one for drainage of runoff, and one for drainage of waste water.



Part of British [amateur] archaeologist Arthur Evans’ reconstruction of several stories of The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece


Details of a pithoi (storage jar) found in situ, The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece


“Since the Roman period [the Great Palace of Knossos] has been suggested as the source of the myth of the Labyrinth, an elaborate maze-like structure constructed for King Minos of Crete and designed by the legendary artificer Daedalus [whose son, Icarus, wore wings of wax and flew too close to the sun, resulting in his wings melting and his plunging to his death] to hold the Minotaur, a creature that was half man and half bull and was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.  Labyrinth comes from the word labyrs, referring to a double, or two-bladed axe.  Its representation had a religious and probably magical significance.  It was used throughout the Mycenaen world as an apotropaic symbol; that is, the presence of the symbol on an object would prevent it from being “killed.”  Axe motifs were scratched on many of the stones of the palace.  It appears in pottery decoration and is a theme of the Shrine of the Double Axes at the palace, as well as of many shrines throughout Crete and the Aegean.” –



The centerpiece of the Palace was the so-called Throne Room; this chamber has an alabaster seat identified by Evans as a “throne” built into the north wall – more likely, this was a religious site and the “throne” was for the head priest; The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece



“Prince of lilies” or “Priest-king Relief”, plaster relief (fresco) at the end of the Corridor of Processions, restored by Gilliéron, believed by Arthur Evans to be a priest-king, wearing a crown with peacock feathers and a necklace with lilies on it, leading an unseen animal to sacrifice; The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece



The entrance to the royal baths with a small pithoi (storage jar), The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece


“The palace also includes the Minoan column, a structure notably different from other Greek columns. The Minoan column was constructed of wood, and then painted red, unlike the stone Greek column. They were also ‘inverted’ – most Greek columns are smaller at the top and wider at the bottom to create the illusion of greater height, but the Minoan columns are smaller at the bottom and wider at the top. The columns at the Palace of Minos were mounted on stone bases and had round, pillow-like capitals (i.e. tops).” –



Restored North Entrance with charging bull fresco between two red Minoan columns, The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece


It is believed that The Great Palace of Knossos was destroyed in 1450 BC by the nearby Santorini (Thera) volcanic eruption that was among the largest volcanic explosions in the history of civilization – it also destroyed Santorini (leading to the legend of “the lost city of Atlantis”).  Following the earthquake and tremendous amount of flying ash that filled the palace, it is thought that the Palace caught fire and was virtually destroyed.  Note that some sources date the Thera eruption at about 1645 BC that would imply that other forces were behind the demise of the Palace and the Minoan civilization circa the 14th century BC.



The so-called “theater” (not roofed when built) which was most likely the site of religious gatherings rather than performances; the steps (top and right) served as seats; The Great Palace of Knossos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece


Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Crete, Greece


As we wandered through the Old Town of Chania, Crete, Greece, we came across signs for Etz Hayyim Synagogue as we headed down Kondilaki Street (where the houses of the most important Jews were located in the 17th through 19th centuries)


Our guidebook mentioned that there was a restored, historic synagogue in the old quarter of Chania, Crete, Greece.  We were intrigued and were rewarded by a very informative visit to the synagogue’s museum after touring the synagogue, the Mikveh (ritual bath) and the memorial to all the congregants who perished in the Shoah (Holocaust) in 1944.  We were very glad that we had sought out and found the synagogue.  Thanks to the Etz Hayyim website, we are able to share a lot of the history and stories that we saw pictured and read about in the synagogue museum.

“The Jews of Crete are first mentioned in 2 Maccabees and appear to have had a community at Gortys.  This city came into administrative prominence during Hellenistic times and attracted artisans and technicians from Alexandria.  It is likely that the members of this early Jewish community were originally from Egypt.  Inscriptions found on the island of Delos indicating the existence of a Samaritan community at Knossos/Herakleion in the 1st century BCE make it likely that a Jewish community also existed there…  Under various occupations – Roman, Byzantine, Andalusian Arab, Venetian and Ottoman – the Jews of Crete were a distinct and quite fascinating thread of continuity.  Toward the end of the 19th century as a consequence of the struggle between the European Powers over the fate of the Ottoman Empire and insular revolts aimed at unifying Crete with the mainland of Greece, Jews began to emigrate until by 1941 there was only one community that survived – that of Hania – numbering approximately 330 people. It had two synagogues dating from the Middle Ages – Beth Shalom and Kal Kadosh Etz Hayyim.

“In that year during the bombing and strafing of Hania at the beginning of the battle of Crete, Beth Shalom was destroyed leaving only one synagogue to serve the needs of the community.  In May of 1944 the entire community was arrested by the Nazis and after a period of incarceration in a nearby prison they were sent by convoy to Herakleion where they were herded onto a ship, the Tanais.  In the early hours of the following morning halfway to the port of Piraeus the ship was struck by torpedoes fired from a British submarine and sank within fifteen minutes – leaving no survivors.” – Nikos Stavroulakis, Emeritus Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece,



The modest exterior of Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Crete, Greece; it is considered to have been built on the site of Saint Catherine’s church


“Until 1995 the Jewish Quarter and Synagogue of Hania slowly sank into near oblivion and the memory of the tragedy was almost obliterated in the enthusiasm to develop Hania as a tourist centre.  A serious earthquake damaged the synagogue to the point of imminent collapse and not long after Nikos Stavroulakis gave a paper at a symposium sponsored jointly by the World Monuments Fund and the Jewish Heritage Program in New York.  Not long after a decision was made to include Etz Hayyim in the list of 100 most endangered monuments of international cultural concern in 1996.  In the august company of Hagia Sophia, the Temple of Minerva in Rome, etc., Etz Hayyim began a new period in its long history.  Through the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation an initial grant was given for the restoration project which was put under the aegis the of the World Monuments Fund in cooperation with the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece.  Work began on the project in 1998.  The Director of the project has been Nicholas Stavroulakis, Emeritus Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece and funding has been provided by the Rothschild, Lauder, Rosenberg, Rose and other foundations of note as well as interested individuals.  The synagogue was officially re-opened on 10 October 1999 when the mezzuzoth were put on its doors and a Sepher Torah was brought ceremoniously into the Synagogue.” – Nikos Stavroulakis, Emeritus Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece,



The street entrance to the courtyard of Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Crete, Greece



As is typical of Romaniote synagogues, the Bema (elevated platform for reading the Torah) is located axially opposite the Ark of the Torah (Ehal) against the West wall; Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Crete, Greece


“The interior of Etz Hayyim is laid out according to the tradition of Romaniote Jewish communities in Greece.  Several examples have survived notably in Ioannina, Halkis, and Corfu and what remains of the interior furnishings of the synagogue of Patras.  This layout is quite different from that of the Sephardi synagogues in Greece and can also be found in Venice, elsewhere in Italy, and occasionally in Turkey and North Africa.  In keeping with all synagogues the Ehal (Torah shrine) is located on the East wall but as is typical of Romaniote synagogues, the Bema (elevated platform for reading the Torah) is located axially opposite to it against the West wall.

“The seating arrangement follows this polar-axial arrangement so that the benches are either against the walls (south and north) or along the central aisle.  It is a highly practical solution to the problem of processions where the congregation must follow the Torah as it is being brought from the Ehal to the Bema and back again, or even the interior circuits that are performed at certain festivals, e.g. Sukkoth.  From the place where one is sitting (or standing) one can easily face East or West or reach out to touch the Torah.

“Visual access to the interior for the women was possible through a lattice-work screen in the S/E Gothic arch and another smaller women’s section is located above the caretaker’s lodge to the N/W.  The former domed structure was completely destroyed in 1941, rebuilt in 2008 as the Jennifer Stein Memorial Library.  Both spaces now house part of the Synagogue’s library as well as offices.” – Nikos Stavroulakis, Emeritus Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece,



In keeping with all synagogues the Ehal (Torah shrine) is located on the East wall, Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Crete, Greece



This photograph was made in the current synagogue museum occupying the former northern women’s prayer seating area (upstairs) that provided visual access to the interior through a lattice-work screen in the Gothic arch, Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Crete, Greece


“The Nazi-German occupation of Greece began in 1941 and lasted until well into 1945.  The circumstances that led to this were complex and perhaps initially only peripherally of concern for Germany as it was called upon to assist its Italian and Bulgarian allies in their expansionist and irredentist aspirations.  Crete was taken by the Germans in May 1941.  They were met by fierce resistance from the local population and the three main towns, Hania, Rethmynon and Herakleion, were badly bombed.

“The Axis Powers eventually prevailed in the Battle of Crete and established their rule by June 1941.  By agreement the island was divided into two zones of occupation; the Germans taking the lion’s share with the main ports and cities and the Italians holding the far eastern portion….

“It was not until the morning hours of 29 May 1944, and almost as an afterthought, that the Jews of Crete were arrested.  Most of the Jews lived in what was then the Jewish Quarter between Kondylaki and Skoufon streets, bordered by Zambeliou and Portou Streets in the Old City of Hania. Jews who lived in such areas as Splantzia and Halepa and other parts of Hania were herded together and eventually were fed into the convoy of trucks that left from Zambeliou, Portou and Kondylakis Streets.  From there they were taken to Ayias Prison located not far from Hania.  Until 9 June they were kept in atrocious conditions, that were described by Christian friends who had attempted to make some contact with them, as inhuman.  Many of the elderly and others had nothing to wear save the bed clothes that many wore at the time of their arrest.  From Ayias they were transported to Herakleion by lorry and dispatched on the ill-fated ship Tanais.  Together with Greek and Italian prisoners they were headed for Piraeus where they would have joined Jews from Corfu and Zakynthos destined for Auschwitz.

“For some years the details of the last hours of the Tanais and the fate of its crew and human cargo was not clear.  What was known is that the ship had been sunk and that all had perished.  Evidence has now appeared through the Foreign Office in London that in fact the Tanais had been sighted by a British submarine and was given two torpedo broadsides and sank within 15 minutes.  None of the prisoners survived.

“A memorial service for the members of the Jewish community of Crete who perished on the Tanais is held annually, during which a list with all the names of the victims is read.” – Nikos Stavroulakis, Emeritus Director of the Jewish Museum of Greece,



Memorial to all congregants who perished in the Shoah on 9 June 1944, Etz Hayyim Synagogue, Chania, Crete, Greece; a memorial service for the members of the Jewish community of Crete who perished is held annually


Chania, Crete, Greece


The Old Town’s pastel colored houses form a tightly hugged semicircle around the harbor, split by narrow alleyways, Chania, Crete, Greece


The first town in Crete (which is the largest of the Greek islands) to fall into Turkish hands in 1645, Chania (or Hania) now shows no signs of the ancient conflict.  The Old Town’s pastel colored houses form a tightly hugged semicircle around the harbor, split by narrow alleyways.  Old Town is best known for its Venetian monuments and aristocratic dwellings.  In the center of it lies the Venetian Harbor, one of the most picturesque ports in the country.  At the end of the pier stands the Faros lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Greece (and the world), built by the Venetian Navy at the turn of the 16th century.  The former Venetian Great Arsenal still stands, as do seven Venetian arsenali (dry-docks).



The Venetian Harbor of Chania, Crete, Greece, showing some of the historic Venetian dockyards (the buildings on the far left) dating back to 1467



Venetian dockyards dating back to 1467, Chania, Crete, Greece



One of the city’s many horse-drawn carriages in front of the Lighthouse of Chania (circa 1595-1601) is one of the oldest lighthouses in Greece and the Mediterranean, but also in the world, Chania, Crete, Greece



Our ship anchored in front of Talo Square, Chania, Crete, Greece



Kioutsouk Hasan mosque (Giali Camici) is unique in Chania, Crete, Greece, as it is the only one of the preserved mosques of the city that was constructed during the second half of the 17th century



The Greek Orthodox Cathedral Church of Chania (also known as the Church of the Trimartyri) was completed in 1860 on the site of an older Venetian temple for Virgin Mary, Chania, Crete, Greece



The Temple of St. Rocco, Chania, Crete, Greece



Remains of the Venetian era, propped up by a modern building occupied by Chania Diving, who took us on a nice snorkeling excursion, Chania, Crete, Greece



Outdoor tables at Taman Restaurant, located in an old Turkish hammam (public baths) in Old Town, Chania, Crete, Greece



Boureki is a Cretan specialty, a zucchini and cheese pie — at Taman Restaurant in Old Town where we enjoyed a delicious lunch of local specialties, Chania, Crete, Greece



Natural sponges for sale on a boat in the Venetian Harbor, Chania, Crete, Greece