Ioannina Greeks to rally against cemetery vandalism


ATHENS (JTA) — A public rally against anti-Semitism will be held in Greece.

The rally, scheduled for Friday, is being organized by The Citizen Initiative for the Defense of the Jewish Cemetery of Ioannina, and will be held outside the Ioannina Jewish cemetery, which has been vandalized four times so far this year.

The incidents were met with general indifference by city officials, state authorities and the political parties, amid allegations of police involvement in the vandalism, according to reports.

The systematic and intense anti-Semitic violence in Ioannina has driven a small but important group of Ioannina citizens to band together. The Citizens Initiative is an organization of more than 100 intellectual, professors, professionals that live in the city of Ioannina with no political backing or affiliation that decided to act against anti-Semitism.

The organization was founded at the beginning of 2009 "to combat racism and elevate the Jewish cemetery as an inseparable part of the Ioannina history."

The Jewish Community of Ioannina is the oldest branch of Greek Jewry — the Romaniote Jews — who trace their ancestry in Greece back to the Babylonian exile.

The local Jews believe that the vandals are members of an openly neo-Nazi group who have publicly demonstrated in the city and are known both to the police and the city.

At the time of the last incident in July, Jewish community head Moysis Elissaf accused the police "of criminal negligence since the attacks on the cemetery were
incessant." The tomb of Elissaf’s mother was destroyed in that attack. Elissaf called for the city of Ioannina to come together in solidarity against the vandalism, a plea which
was met with indifference and mockery.

When the local bishop was asked to denounce the vandalism, he stated that he "did not want to get political." The mayor has kept a low-profile on the issue.

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