Turkey to Restore Jewish Cemetery Dating Back to Early Ottoman Empire

Entitled 'Silent Witnesses of Milas Jewry,' the restoration project honors the Jewish community of the southwestern town of Milas, who have long since left.

The entrance to the town of Milas in southwestern Turkey.
Wikimedia Commons

Turkish authorities are planning to restore a Jewish cemetery dating back to the 16th century, the Daily Sabah website reported.

The cemetery, in the southwestern town of Milas, has about 170 graves, some of which date back to the early days of the Ottoman Empire. The objective of the project, entitled "Silent Witnesses of Milas Jewry," is to honor the Jewish community, which has long since left the town.

Milas was home to a large Jewish population in the recent past , Milas Mayor Muhammet Tokat told reporters. "We had Jewish neighbors," Tokat said. "They were mostly merchants. I remember them well, but future generations should also be aware that Jews once lived in Milas. Researchers will study the graves and experts will renovate it as part of our project."

Tokat's municipality coordinated with a Jewish foundation and the local governorate in initiating the restoration project.

Sami Azar, leader of the Jewish community in the western city of zmir, visited Milas on Friday to discuss the project with the mayor. "Every nation, every community who lived in these lands left their trace in Anatolia and this cemetery is also a part of Anatolian culture, just like Jews themselves," Azar said. "I am very pleased with the decision for restoration."

"Jewish gravestones give insight into the past of the deceased as they are very detailed in describing the buried, from their occupation to their family history, et cetera," said Dr. Siren Bora, one of the historians conducting research at the cemetery.