Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Saint Demetrios is the patron saint of Thessaloniki, and his feast is October 26. So there is an annual festival here, called Dimitria, with secular arts exhibits, concerts and religious services too. We caught a service before the church of St. Menas walked its miracle-working icon from Laladika to St. Demetrios church. We didn't get to the home of Attaturk, founder of modern Turkey, who was born in the city. But we did visit the city's Jewish Museum in Laladika, which is a district that was once largely Jewish. The museum seemed to give credit to the Christian rulers through the city's complicated history for allowing Jews to live in peace. The Jewish population dwindled significantly during the 400-year Ottoman occupation. By the 1920s, Greece had passed a law "protecting" Jews' legal rights, according to a history at the Jewish Museum we visited. But it didn't make a difference when the Germans invaded Greece in 1941. They destroyed the important, central Jewish cemetery, and in 1942, Jewish men were rounded up. Roughly 49,000 Jews from Thessaloniki died in concentration camps, according to museum statistics. That accounted for many of the Jews in Greece. Nearly 13,000 Jews, including 343 officers, had served in the Greek army. Few Jews remain in the city; our host at the Obelix Ouzerie pointed to some menacing meat hooks hanging over his open-air restaurant tables in the food market and said that three Jewish brothers still own the building across from his and refuse to change anything. Those who didn't perish moved to France, Italy, the U.S. and Latin America -- most were Sephardic people, though the museum emphasized that Thessaloniki was a crossroads of people, and some Jews had Thessaloniki roots going back more than 1000 years.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Good to be named for a great champion in time of peril, Saint Demetrios, a duke who taught the lesson "careful what you pray for." He wished Nestor well in the stadium, Nestor called on God to be victorious, and the rest is history.
Happy St. Demetrios Day!!