A centuries-old Jewish cemetery in southwestern Turkey will be restored as part of a project aimed at honoring Jewish history in the town, according to a report on the Daily Sabah news site.
The cemetery in the town of Milas will be restored for the project entitled “Silent Witnesses of Milas Jewry,” and local officials plan to turn it into a faith tourism destination.
The long-neglected cemetery has about 170 graves and is believed to date from as early as the 16th century.
Milas Mayor Muhammet Tokat, whose municipality coordinated with a Jewish foundation and local governorate, told reporters that Milas, on the southwestern tip of Turkey, was home to a large Jewish population in the near past. “We had Jewish neighbors. 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,” the mayor said.
Some 1,000 or so Jews lived in Milas at the beginning of the 20th century, but, particularly from the 1950s they moved away to Izmir, Israel or elsewhere. An article in January 2015 on the Turkish Jewish news site Salom described the condition of the cemetery as “deplorable” and called on local officials to step in. The cemetery, it said
is facing extinction in an unpreserved environment where there’s a children’s playground at the entrance, sheep being pastured on the grass area and garbage being disposed around the tombstones…[…] It should be an imperative task for Milas Municipality to restore the deplorable condition of the cemetery which even made the headlines in international media. The Municipality should afterwards preserve this social and cultural asset which could contribute significantly to Milas’ tourism potential.