User:Ehrlich91/The Jewish Cemeteries in Bitola
The Jewish Cemeteries in Bitola- are the cemeteries of the Jewish community in the city. They are located at the very entrance to the city opposite the graveyard and the St. Nedela church. They were built in 1929. However, on the entrance door there was an inscription in Serbian which read “Jewish cemeteries 1457-1929”. It is not clear why it says 1457.
When rabbi Shabtai Djaen arrived in Bitola in 1924, he noticed that the cemeteries are on a steep hill on the outskirts of the city and in a very bad condition. The greater part of the monuments were stolen and the material used for building. The remaining were broken and scattered around with moss growing on them. Rabbi Djaen travelled to America to gather money from Jews from Bitola who were working there. After his return, he initiated the building of a strong protective wall made of stone and iron with engraved stars of David. This wall kept the Jewish cemeteries safe from sacrilege and from being demolished during the Bulgarian occupation of Macedonia in the Second World War.
In 1961, the national board of Municipality Bitola decided to redecorate the entire area and to turn it into a park, which would be protected by the state. An initial project along with calculation of expenses were made, however, nothing was undertaken.
In 2015 conservation efforts of the cemeteries and the construction of a park began, after an agreement was signed between the city’s mayor, the Israeli ambassador and the president of ARHAM.
At first conservation started by digging out tombstones and cleaning the terrain so that it could be used as a park. The efforts were led by the conservationist Orit Bortnik, the archaeologist Hen Ben-Ahri and volunteers from the association for sustained development, architecture and ambience. According to the plan, a path for all tombstones is to be built and as many trees planted as there were Jewish families formerly living in the city.
Some graves of rabbis can be identified even today because they are well-preserved. This area is secured because of reported pillages, vandalism or similar criminal activities.