Details of the synagogue in Rhodes

Over the door of the synagogue in Rhodes is a large plaque that contains verses, all of which contain the word “shalom” which is the name of the synagogue. Shalom, of course, means peace.
The "Shalom" Plaque
Unfortunately the synagogue knew war and destruction. Years ago we visited the synagogue. I remember the interior looking very different. When I looked a bit closer this time, I saw that the interior had been repainted but they had left some of the original art that had been painted on the walls.

The interior showing some of the art work

The interior showing some of the art work


To the right of the chandelier on the right and on the left wall, you can see some of the wall painting that was preserved when the synagogue was repainted.
One of the details on the wall

One of the details on the wall


Unfortunately, this one was impossible for me to read. The letters were not clear.
Detail on one of the columns and a remnant of earlier painting

Detail on one of the columns and a remnant of earlier painting


Another wall detail

Another wall detail


The picture above is an artistic rendition of the tablets of the ten commandments. Interestingly, only two of the ten remain on them. It looks as if they were restored. I am puzzled as to why the rest of them are not there as the text is readily available. The two commandments on the wall are “Honor you father and your mother” and “Don’t murder.”
David's Harp

David's Harp


Above and to the left, you can see another patch of the remaining wall painting.

Visiting the synagogue was a moving experience. I looked at the few remaining illustrations and thought about how the once vibrant community was destroyed. Now only about 30 Jews live in Rhodes and the future of the community is by no means assured as their children have left to marry and settle elsewhere.

It’s worth our support and definitely worth a visit next time you’re in Rhodes.

Lindos

One of the towns on the island of Rhodes is Lindos. Lindos is a white city– all of the houses are white. It sits on the eastern coast of Rhodes. Aside from its proximity to beautiful white beaches, it is known for its acropolis. Acropolis means high city. Many places in Greece have an acropolis. Each one is known as the acropolis of the city or town it is located in. Only the Acropolis in Athens is known as “The Acropolis.” The acropolis was used both for defensive purposes in case of war, since all of the people of the city could be relocated to the high ground behind walls and for religious purposes. At this acropolis, there was the Temple of Athena. Other matters of the day also took place at the acropolis. Legal matters were discussed and adjudicated there as well. The acropolis of Lindos dates possibly as far back as 600 BCE.

A view of Lindos

A view of Lindos


Lindos as seen from the parking lot

Our bus parked at an upper parking lot and we walked perhaps 15 minutes to the lower parking lot. Beyond it, there was no vehicular traffic. In the tourist season (April through October) there are donkeys that will transport you to the top of the acropolis. In the winter, they rest. We caught one relaxing. Note he seems not to display the least bit of guilt.

Donkey at leisure

First I found a local Greek man who was kind enough to pose for a picture. The Greeks are very friendly to tourists.

Then we walked to the top of the acropolis, winding our way through the narrow alleyways. They contained lots of tourist shops but, you guessed it, they all were closed.

Bustling downtown Lindos

Bustling downtown Lindos

We walked up perhaps 100 steps and arrived at an area were there were explanations of what we were to see. In addition, there was a most unusual carving on the wall. It seems that the soil being what it was, the land in the area was not fertile farmland, and so the inhabitants turned to fishing. The carving is the only evidence as to what their fishing ships looked like. It is interesting to note that by about 2000 years BCE, there already were ships that sailed between Egypt and Greece!
The ship
The Stoa

This was the area where all could enter and this is where much of the news of the day and legal issues were discussed.
The Temple of Athena

As you can see, this was reconstructed in recent times. It sits at the top of the mountain and overlooks a magnificent landscape.
The Mediterranean Sea

The white city of Lindos

The white city of Lindos

We went to Rhodes one winter and it was closed

Rhodes is a Greek Island, largest of the Dodecanese, a group of twelve islands very close to Turkey. Rhodes’ largest source of income by far is tourism. In fact, 45% of the population profits directly from tourism and 85% in total profit at least indirectly. Tourists mostly come in the summer time. Rhodes has beaches both on the Aegean Sea and on the Mediterranean. It also has beautiful walking areas, mountain views, and quaint shops. Cruise ships stop there and a visit even of several hours in the Old Town can be a delightful experience.

Most of the tourists come in the warm seasons, from April through October. In the winter, shops in the Old Town generally open only when a cruise ship arrives– and they don’t come often in the winter. We arrived on the 9th of January and the next one is arriving on the 18th. So, when we were there, things were very very quiet– which we didn’t mind since we had been there in the summer several times and knew what the Old Town looked like when it was buzzing with people. Since we had gone just as a getaway, for a break in routine and to have some quiet, it was perfect. The town was ours.

The main street in the Old Town

We wandered through lovely streets and alleys.

On our previous visits to Rhodes we had not had the opportunity to see the inside of the Grand Masters Palace. This time, we not only saw it, but we were its only visitors.

The palace was originally built in the 14th century, but an ammunition explosion destroyed it in 1856. It was rebuilt in the early 20th century by the Italians who then ruled Rhodes. It was rebuilt according to the external plans of the palace. The interior is not the same as the destroyed palace.

This is the street that leads to the palace. On either side are offices of the bureau of antiquities or foreign consuls.

Here is the staircase

Once upstairs, we walked from room to room in this rectangular building with a courtyard.

The scale of the rooms is enormous. Unlike the palaces we have seen elsewhere in Europe, there is no wallpaper or stuffed furniture, in fact, no color at all.

We liked this hallway. There were no explanations of anything, but we like to think that these were the rooms where the knights lived.

I like the stone design around these doors

In the palace, there are mosaics that were taken from the Greek island of Kos. They date from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Here are the Nine Muses.

The Nine Muses

And finally, we walked into a room where there was a delightful young woman, an archaeology student, the only other person we saw in the palace. She was sitting on a modern chair. We spoke to her and she told us that her job is watching the vase in the room. It stands about 6 feet tall and it was a gift of Hirohito to Mussolini. Of course, if someone wanted to harm it, I doubt whether her presence would really make a difference. Physically, it was separated from us only by a rope. So here is the famous vase.

How the Sifrei Torah in Rhodes were saved

I promised an interesting story about the sifrei torah in Rhodes. This is a story we discovered at the brand new Jewish museum in Rhodes.

The source of this article comes from an article written in 2004 by Aron Hasson in the “Ke Haber?” newsletter. Aron Hasson is the founder of the Jewish Museum of Rhodes. I highly recommend visiting there as it is a gem!

In 1943, the German military took control of Rhodes. Early in 1944, British bombs resulted in the deaths of thirty-four Jews. Realizing that the situation in Rhodes was not secure, the community decided to find a way to safeguard their sifrei torah, among them one that was about 800 years old.

In secret, they turned over the sifrei torah to the Turkish religious leader, the Grand Mufti of Rhodes, Seyh Suleyman Kaslioglu, who hid them in the pulpit of a mosque that was located in the new city of Rhodes, far from the old town which was the target of the bombings.

In July 1944, the Jews of Rhodes were deported by the Germans, most of them to Auschwitz. Of the 1,676 Jews deported, only about 151 survived the war. At the end of the war, all of the sifrei torah were returned to the survivors and to this day are preserved in the synagogue in Rhodes.

In a conversation in 1971 with a Jewish friend of his, the Grand Mufti confided, “One of the greatest moments of my life was when I was able to embrace the Torah and carry it and put it in the pulpit of the mosque because we knew that no German would ever think that the Torahs were preserved in the pulpit of the mosque.”

In a later interview with the daughter of the Grand Mufti, in 2004, she revealed that she “had Jewish blood.” Further investigation showed that the Grand Mufti’s father-in-law was Jewish and that through the years, the Grand Mufti had meetings with the Grand Rabbi of Rhodes and other Jewish leaders.
The Grand Mufti

Mosque

Mosque pulpit

All roams lead to Rhodes

My husband and I were sitting around wondering where to go this winter where we wouldn’t freeze. My husband didn’t feel like going far, so it limited our choices. But we had been to Rhodes several times for a few hours at a time on cruises and always enjoyed visiting and always wanted to visit the museum in the Place of the Grand Master and never got there. Somehow, the ship always left Haifa late and our time in Rhodes was shortened. Rhodes has a fascinating history, having been conquered again and again by different countries and only returning to Greece in 1949.

We took off yesterday and in a mere one hour and fifteen minutes, we were here. The hotel is lovely, situated along the coast. The weather has been ideal.

Today, because it is Monday, all of the museums and archaeological sites are closed. In addition, because Rhodes is a very popular tourist destination in the summer, but not so much in the winter, most of the stores in the old town were closed. There was something quite amazing about visiting a very very beautiful place and having it almost to ourselves. Here are some of the things we saw:
Deer on columns at the port
Street in the Old Town
Courtyard in Old Town

Although we had visited the synagogue before, this visit was very special. The community is very small, number perhaps 30 people. All of the young people have moved away and the community only has a minyan when visitors are present. They have managed, however, to refurbish the synagogue and to convert part of the building complex to an attractive and moving museum of the history of the Jews of Rhodes.
Entrance to the synagogue
The Bima
The twin arks
Inside the museum

The rest of our walk was lovely too.

We did come upon a rabbit
The rabbit
or was it a horse?
A horse

And of course, here is a peek at the Grand Masters Palace…
Palace of the Grand Masters

More about the trip and especially an interesting story about the Sifrei Torah from the Rhodes synagogue and how they were saved during World War II… next time…