Members and friends of the Jewish Community of Athens participate at a silent protest, as a response to the Vandalism of the Jewish Cemetery in Athens, Greece
May 15, 2018

The Jewish cemetery in Athens, Greece, was vandalized during the early hours of Friday, May 5th when nine commemorative marble struts were toppled and broken. These marble struts are used to mark the sectors of the cemetery and are dedicated by families to the memory of their deceased loved ones. The vandals have not yet been identified.

In response to this destruction, a silent protest was held at the Jewish cemetery on Sunday, May 13th at 12:00pm in which over 400 members and friends participated.
The protest began with a number of short speeches delivered by dignitaries, national and local government officials, a representative from the World Jewish Congress, members of our community’s Board of Directors, and a prayer led by Rabbi Negrin. The highlight and most moving scene of the protest was the formation of a human chain which consisted of members, of all ages, as well as non- Jewish Greek citizens, holding hands and observing a moment of silence. Participants wore specially printed black caps that read “WHY?” and held up signs that read “Respect to the dead”. The protest exemplified our community’s zero tolerance for anti-Semitism and racism.

Although the question of “WHY?” cannot be answered, memorable statements of support were given on that day:

“Acts of vandalism offend the Greek culture, are contrary to Greek values, are alien to the spirit of tolerance in Greek society and the evangelical ethos of love and respect of people.” Archimandrite Athanasios, on behalf of Archbishop Hieronymus II of Athens.

“A modern society cannot remain indifferent towards those who identify with violence and fanaticism and we will not remain as spectators to these abhorrent acts.” Victor Eliezer, Secretary General of the Central Board of the Jewish Communities in Greece.

“We are all together in the fight against anti-Semitism, always and everywhere.”
Omri Schegelmann, World Jewish Congress.

“That is why no matter how many monuments they destroy, we will never get tired of rebuilding, and no matter how many slogans they write, we will never get tired of erasing them.” George Kalantzis, Secretary General of Education and Religious Affairs.

“Anti-Semitism is the oldest, and most durable form of racism ever known. It only changes its wrapping and its ideological background. […] The government has developed initiatives and will continue to tackle all forms of racism.”
Maria Giannakakis, Secretary General of Human Rights.

“I want to remind you of Elie Weisel’s saying: “Neutrality does not help the victim but the perpetrator. Silence encourages the persecutor. We are here today to say that we are not silent and we are not indifferent.” Rena Dourou, Attica Regional Governor.

“Athens is an open and inclusive city and it is not afraid. And that is how it will remain.” Lefteris Papayannakis, Deputy Mayor of Athens.

“You coward desecrator, you who hurt us in the dark and hide in the light of day, know that you have not frightened us, nor can you bend us. On the earth that you scattered with broken pieces of marble tombstones from our loved ones, our tears will water it and we hope trees of humanity will grow with mutual respect for all others, whether dead or alive, of all religions, all colors or origins.” Minos Moissis, President of the Jewish Community of Athens.

We are so thankful to have received messages of solidarity from embassies along with Greek religious leaders, political institutions and municipalities. We are also thankful for the support from Jewish communities abroad, the WJC and other prominent Jewish Organizations. Finally we thank all our friends and supporters, from Greece, Israel, USA and other places all over the world, who expressed their concern through social media and mails.

Thank you for standing by us and filling us with strength

Kol Yisrael Arevim Ze le Ze

The Jewish Community of Athens