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Greek Jews warn metro works could disturb cemetery

The head of Greece’s Jewish community warned that work on a new metro line for the northern city of Salonika risks disturbing the remains of a historic Jewish cemetery.

“The entire area was once a Jewish cemetery. In-depth excavation is certain to hit upon graves and remains,” Moses Constantinis, head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS), said. “We would not want the peace of the dead to be disturbed. In our religion, it is a sin to move the dead after burial.”

The metro tunnels will run well beneath the cemetery, but one station will surface near the Aristotelio University library, where excavation has unearthed the remains of Jewish funerary monuments, community sources say. “We would like the area studied, and if excavation interferes with the cemetery, which we believe it does, then to avoid building (the station) or move it to a different location,” Constantinis said.

The Jewish cemetery, one of the largest in Europe, was razed in 1942 during the German wartime occupation of Greece.  Two decades later, the cemetery site was built on during an expansion of Aristotelio University.

Founded more than five centuries ago, the cemetery is believed to have held more than 300,000 graves.

Construction work on the Salonika metro began last summer. It is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

(Source: AFP – EJP)

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