Monday, June 22, 2009

Spain -- Cemetery Controvery in Toledo Resolved

Philip Carmel, the executive director of the Jewish cemetery preservation organization Lo-Tishkach reports a successful conclusion to the controversy over about 100 graves dug up from the medieval Jewish cemetery in Toledo, Spain to make way for the expansion of a school that already occupies part of the cemetery site.

All the bones were reburied in their original grave sites at a ceremony on Sunday.

As Sam Gruber and I have noted in earlier blog posts, the Toledo construction was halted earlier this year after heated protests, including demonstrations outside Spanish embassies.

Phil makes clear that the government, local authorities and Jewish organizations cooperated to work out a satisfactory solution to the problem.

He writes:

I am pleased to inform you that yesterday, Sunday June 21, saw the reburial of all the bones removed from the medieval cemetery in Toledo. The remains were buried on site in the actual graves from which they had been removed. This was achieved after protracted negotiations which only reached fruition last Thursday in Madrid at which point we decided not to publicise details of the reburial until after it had concluded.

This remarkable and historic solution brings a satisfactory conclusion to a chapter which has seen a tremendous degree of solidarity and cooperation on the part of the Spanish government and the local Jewish federation and a willingness to work together with the Conference of European Rabbis and the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe to achieve an amicable solution within the boundaries of Halachah.

At all times, we have insisted that the remains of these Toledo Jews should be buried in their chosen resting place and not transferred to another site. We are highly satisfied that the moving ceremony which took place yesterday in the presence of local Jewish leaders, heads of the regional authority of Castilla la Mancha, and the president of the CPJCE, Rabbi Elyokim Schlesinger has given the correct conclusion to our work.

I want to also state for the record our deep gratitude for the unstinting and dedicated work of Ambassador Ana Salomon and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in assisting us to find a solution to this matter in the face of unwarranted protests and misinformation directed against the Spanish government and the local Jewish Federation.

I hope that our work to save this historic cemetery in Toledo will prove to be a prototype for how governments, local Jewish communities and representative Jewish organisations can work together for the benefit of preserving these cemeteries in Europe.

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