Ruben Fuks, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, in the Nis Jewish cemetery.
I spent most of last week in Serbia, on a fact-finding trip to assess the condition of Jewish heritage sites in the towns of Nis and Pirot. I will (I think) be posting on the trip itself, but meanwhile, I am posting some links to pieces I have already published elsewhere.
A historic Jewish cemetery that long has been threatened by the encroachment of a growing Roma, or Gypsy, settlement that occupies one-third of the site is now being threatened by the encroachment of commercial enterprises into the domain of the old Hebrew gravestones.
In the labyrinthine Roma village, or mahala, 800 to 1,500 people live in brick and concrete houses separated by narrow passageways and irregular courtyards. Laundry hangs from the windows, water drips from open taps and some roofs sport satellite TV dishes. At one end is a stable for horses, and at the fence that separates the village from the open part of the cemetery, sheep and goats peer out at the graves.
Eight years ago, a well-publicized cleanup campaign cleared the cemetery of garbage and waste that had covered the tombstones and eliminated the open sewers that had run amid the graves.
But the campaign’s success proved to be fleeting and now new warehouses, a restaurant and other illegal construction, including a cut-rate department store, intrude on another third of the cemetery, according to Jasna Ciric, the president of the Nis Jewish community, which numbers just 28 people.