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Cuba's long-forgotten Jewish cemetery, Holocaust memorial restored



The oldest Jewish cemetery in Cuba had decayed for decades. Marble grave marks are broken, many taken over by plants.

But now there are great efforts to upgrade them.

Many Jewish families left the Communist country after the 1959 revolution, leaving their dead in accordance with the Jews, which prohibits bodies from being exhumed, unless they are taken to their homeland in Israel. Others gave up their religious traditions in the midst of a deep secularism established during the first years of the Castro government, or moved to Israel in the ensuing decades.

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"The people buried here escaped fascism during the war and they are the founders of the community who bought these lands to make them a graveyard," said David Prinstein, vices president of the Hebrew board said the Associated Press. "It has historical and sentimental value."

  CORRECTION OF THE NAME OF WAR - The portrait of a young Cuban soldier who died in the Korean War decorates his grave in a Jewish cemetery in Guanabacoa, East Havana, Cuba, on June 7, 2019. Many Jewish families left Land after the revolution of 1959 and left their dead according to the Jewish custom, which prohibits exhuming bodies if they are not brought to Israel. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)

CORRECTION OF THE NAME OF WAR – The portrait of a young Cuban soldier who died in the Korean War decorates his grave in a Jewish cemetery in Guanabacoa, East Havana, Cuba, June 7, 2019 Many Jewish families left the country after the 1959 revolution, leaving their dead to Jewish custom, which forbids exhuming bodies unless they are brought to Israel. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)

About 50 of the 1,100 graves have been restored, and one government official expects to complete about 150 more by the end of the year.

Restoration of the Havana Cemetery is part of the government-led urban historian Havana, before the 500th anniversary of its foundation in November, at a time when Cuba is struggling with a severe economic crisis was affected by the trade embargo of the Trump government and the cessation of Venezuelan supplies of subsidized fuels, which led to a crisis of a shortage of basic products such as chicken and flour.

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Havana's east side is home to the long-forgotten Jewish Cemetery in Guao Neighborhood, which was purchased by the island's first Hebrew society in 1906 and inaugurated in 1910 by Jews and their descendants from Europe, most of whom escaped World War I and II. Today only 1,500 Jews live on the island, most of them older.

  At the Jewish cemetery in Guanabacoa in eastern Havana, Cuba, on June 12, 2019, workers clean the top of a grave. Monuments are being polished and historic sites restored. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)

Workers clean the top of a tomb at the Jewish cemetery in Guanabacoa in eastern Havana, Cuba, on June 12, 2019. Roads across the city are being paved, monuments polished, and historic sites are being restored , (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)

"I feel a great sense of calm and serenity when visiting the cemetery, for me it is like being with my mother, my only sister and my nephew," said Adela Dworin, President of the Hebrew Council of Cuba. next to a grave, adorned with small stones, with which Jews pay homage to the dead.

The stones that symbolize eternity lie near inscriptions with the names of the buried. Many have written comforting words in Yiddish or Spanish and are adorned with the Star of David.

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And the cemetery also has a 10-foot monument that is paid homage to the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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