Prague's medieval Jewish cemetery back in the news

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Prague's oldest Jewish burial ground, not to be mistaken for the famous cemetery tourists admire when they visit Prague's Jewish museum, is once again in the news. The cemetery, closed in 1487, was partially uncovered when the Czech Insurance Company started building a new administrative building on the site. Because Jewish traditions have a very special respect for the sanctity of graves, the international Jewish community was soon up in arms over the way the insurance company was treating the site. When the Ministry of Culture declared the building site a protected area, for a brief time it seemed that things were calming down. But new protests and fresh misunderstandings have now emerged, and the Jewish Community of Prague says it can no longer cooperate with the Czech Insurance Company. Olga Szantova reports.

The Czech Insurance Company had the construction plans changed so the graves would not be disturbed, and presented the new plans on June 1st. The Jewish Community had seven days in which to state its attitude towards these plans, which it did. But meanwhile, on June 2nd, the insurance company resumed construction work, without enabling a representative of the Prague Jewish Community to monitor the process. Michal Urban is the spokesman for the insurance company.

"We have agreed with all the proposals that are in our competence. We also agree with a representative of the Jewish Community visiting the site along with a representative of the archeological authorities. But they haven't named anybody to do the supervising. As for resuming work on the site, we had to, so deadlines could be met, and those include our promise to enable the re-burial of remains already exhumed in the beginning of September."

There seems to be a deadlock, with neither side giving in at this point. So, how does an observer who has been following developments see the situation? Rabbi Hershl Gluck in London is in close contact with the Prague Jewish Community. Hopefully, one day the remains of those buried in Prague's medieval Jewish cemetery way back before 1478 will finally rest in peace and with them, the whole issue.

Author: Olga Szantová
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