Cemeteries are often the only remaining landmark of the Jewish settlement of a location. The oldest gravestones in Jewish cemeteries are in the form of raised stones, known as matzevah. They are reminiscent of the Biblical custom of raising a stone in a holy place. The inscriptions are in Hebrew and are a form of registry. They contain not only the name of the deceased person, but also his or her relatives and the date of death. The gravestone was typically only erected on the first anniversary of the buried person’s death.
Shrouds have no pockets
The most common burials in the Czech Lands were in simple pinewood coffins or on biers to help the body unite with the earth as soon as possible, as is stated in the Bible: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. Cremation was considered desecration of the body. It only appeared in the 20th century, when many Jews were abandoning their religious traditions. All the deceased were buried in a white shroud. No items or gifts were buried with the deceased, because a proverb on the relativity of earthly possessions says, “Shrouds have no pockets”. German inscriptions appeared in the 19th century as the Jews began to emancipate, Czech inscriptions at the turn of the 20th century.
A custom that survives to this day is to put pebbles on the grave instead of flowers. God is a Rock and the human soul is a chip off the Rock, symbolized by the pebble.
Other tips along the route
- Čkyně Synagogue – museum exhibition
- Volyně Synagogue – architecture
- Chapel of the Holy Spirit and the stations of the cross in Vlachovo Březí
- Vlachovo Březí Chateau – architecture
- Dub Chateau – open year-round
- Hoštice u Volyně Chateau – architecture
- Malenice historic forge mill – museum exhibition
- U Blumů and U Malinů Rustic Baroque homesteads in Předslavice – architecture