At The Jewish Cemetery In Nish Gypsies At He Rabbis Chapel

The sarcophagus of the late Rabbi Rahamim Naftalija Gedalia, which was below the chapel, found a new use as the patio table to store things on and to dry laundry on a string above it.
The inhabitants of the Gypsy settlement at the Stock Square, who have for decades illegally settled the Jewish cemetery, live with the deceased in harmony. Some of them believe that they might get lucky if they clean up one of the tomb tablets that bears the star of King David.
The members of the Jewish Community of Nish, on the other hand, think that their cemetery that dates back to 17th century has become the eyesore of Nish and have recently requested the Republic’s Secretariat for Religions to intervene in the matter.
Two alternatives
According to the information supplied by the Jewish Communities of Serbia and Montenegro, in Serbia there are 110 Jewish cemeteries that are in serious decay. It is particularly true of small places in Vojvodina, in which Jews lived in the past. The Jewish cemetery of Nish is the worst case of all.
In this city 1100 Jews lived before the war. Just one survived it and returned after the war. At this time, forty Jews, members of the Jewish Community, live in Nish and practically have not got their cemetery, says Davor Salom, the secretary of the Jewish Communities of Serbia and Montenegro.
When somebody dies, he or she must be buried at the Serbian cemetery. The Jewish is closed because Gypsies built their settlement in it. By its title deed the entire acreage of the cemetery belongs to the Jewish Community of Nish. One part of the cemetery, which had not been in use, was bequeathed to the Community of Nish in the sixties. The Gypsies then came and illegally built their settlement, which has spread since. The settlement is not made up of shanties made of cardboard or planks, but they are solidly built homes situated within the cemetery and on top of the grave makers. The inhabitants of this community live as they can without sanitary facilities. This site became the eyesore and shame of Nish. As members of the township, the gypsies now ask for help. Not long ago the representatives of the World Bank came to the city and with the town’s councilmen visited also this locality. The Nish Gazette published an article stating that the people from the gypsy settlement at Stock Square asked the representatives of the World Bank to help their effort to legalize their settlement and to have the sewage and water main installed in it, says Salom.
The Jewish Community requires from the Town Management of Nish to solve the problem of the Jewish Cemetery of Nish, the options being either to move the gypsy settlement from the cemetery or to move the cemetery to an adequate other location. To legalize a settlement at the cemetery is out of question. Moving the cemetery is strictly against the religious laws. Should it take place in spite of it, it would be a painful occurrence, said the Secretary of Jewish Communities of Serbia and Montenegro.
We hoped that we would be able to restore the cemetery to its previous state. However, it is not feasible because of the buildings that were built there leaving the cemetery inaccessible, says Mirjana Pesic, the manager of the Planning and Programs Department of the Building Management in Nish.
The Jewish Cemetery was neglected after the Second World War. Since Jews were almost completely exterminated from Nish, there was no one to take care of the cemetery. The gypsies settled it illegally. I am aware that a delegation visited from Israel and requested that this problem be solved. Since homes have been built at this site, only some markers remained. There is an initiative to find a new location for the memorial center. Markers scattered on these lots, turned meadows, and in the yards of the industrial plants should be somehow collected and displayed in a memorial park. We requested the Institute for Urban Building to find such a location and since we plan to change the General Urban Plan next year, it is likely that all this will be thought through and solved, explained Mirjana Pesic.
From the original document
Enterprises Metalac and Nisplant have usurped a part of the Jewish Cemetery on its northwest side before and Technomarket does it today. On the eastern side the commercial enterprise Otpad from Zrenjanin wedged itself in. These enterprises also covered the cemetery with tons of their waste materials. The gypsy settlement is also on the eastern side, explains Jasna Ciric, president of the Jewish Community of Nish.
All tablets of the grave markers are engraved with long Hebrew texts. A smaller number has texts in plastic lettering. A small number of tablets has also the Serbian translation of the Hebrew text, mainly those dating back to 20th century, while others from 19th century neither bear the year nor the Serbian translation. The ornamentation is scarce on the tablet markers.
It is impossible to see, examine or photograph the Jewish Cemetery today, because it is completely neglected and overgrown by grass and reeds, covered by tons of debris, human waste and industrial waste. Weeds and grass cover the tomb markers and the brush grows two meters high. Many gypsy homes were built with grave tablets from this cemetery in their foundation. Others have them as interior inventory. These tablets pave the alley passages between homes, while others have found use in the stables of the gypsy settlement. Some of the tablets panel the walls of underground sewers. And I stress once more that tons of debris cover all, so that the Jewish Cemetery became today a garbage disposal and dump, says the representative of the Jewish Community of Nish.
Ljiljana Milisavljevic

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