The Embassies of Canada and Israel are pleased to announce the launch of the “Etz Hayyim and Jewish Legacy in Crete” Mobile App. This tourism application is an important tool giving users immediate access to the rich history of the Jewish Community of Hania and Crete.
The App was developed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada with the support of the Embassies of Canada and Israel and in collaboration with the Etz Hayyim Synagogue. It will be officially presented at an event on June 14th at the Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Chania with the participation of local dignitaries, members of the Greek Jewish Community and representatives of the Canadian and Israeli Embassies.
The history of the Jewish Communities in Crete dates back more than 2,300 years. Inevitably, these communities were to benefit from and suffer under the geographic advantages of the island as being a crossroad but also its isolation. Under Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman Turkish domination, the Jewish communities developed a quite distinct character as remnants of antiquity, but also absorbed to a degree the rich Sephardic identity widely dispersed throughout the eastern Mediterranean after the 15th century.
The Cretan Jewish Communities suffered a devastating blow during the Holocaust when the Nazi occupiers destroyed the Jewish Community of Hania. In May 1944, the Nazis rounded up around 300 Jews from Hania and other parts of Crete. Along with some Greek resistance fighters and Italians, they forced Jews to board a ship and sunk it off the coast of Crete. At the end of the World War II, over five synagogues in Crete had been destroyed as well as Jewish cemeteries and schools. Only the desecrated Etz Hayyim Synagogue was left as a witness to Jewish life in Crete. Etz Hayyim remained in ruin until renovations began in 1996 until the year of its re-dedication in 1999. Today, it is a center of attraction for Jews and other visitors from around the world visiting Crete.
The new mobile app will give users the opportunity to learn more about Etz Hayim and the rich heritage of the Jews of Crete.
It is worth noting that the the New Media Laboratory of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Department of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada in collaboration with the Embassy of Canada, has been developing a series of mobile applications to promote culture, history and tourism in Greece including the history of its Jewish Communities. These applications can be downloaded for free and allow users to go on self-guided walking tours using GPS technology. The New Media lab has already developed a mobile application for the histories of the Jewish communities of Ioannina and Thessaloniki. These are the first apps of their kind promoting the rich history of Jews in Greece.