Aerial drones to map Jewish cemeteries in preservation efforts
To assist in the preservation efforts for thousands of aging Jewish cemeteries, the European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative will employ aerial drones to map burial sites in Holocaust-stricken countries, AP reports.
The Germany-based organization announced plans to survey 1,500 endangered Jewish cemeteries in Slovakia, Greece, Moldova, Lithuania and Ukraine this year using drone technology. After the boundaries are determined, the private organization plans to enclose and clean the sites.
An 800,000-euro grant ($911,100) from the European Union is set aside for the effort in the wake of rising anti-Semitic acts involving the defacement of Jewish cemeteries in Europe.
As part of the initiative, walls fitted with locking gates will be erected around the graveyards to protect them and to re-establish a physical presence, "so people know there's a Jewish cemetery," chief executive of the initiative Philip Carmel said to AP.
Volunteers will also be tapped in the five countries for ongoing maintenance and safekeeping.
"Fencing doesn't protect. It's the people who protect the cemeteries," Carmel said, noting that the defacing of gravestones at a cemetery and a monument to Holocaust victims near the French city of Strasbourg last year.
The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative has identified about 10,000 known Jewish burial sites in 46 European countries, the majority of which are located in central and eastern Europe.
"It is vital, especially, that the next generation of Europeans learns about Jewish existence to combat rising anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. The cemeteries are so often the last physical proof of centuries of Jewish life in the towns and villages of Europe, which were wiped out in the Shoah. There is no better proof to deny Holocaust denial."
"It is vital, especially, that the next generation of Europeans learns about Jewish existence to combat rising anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial," Carmel said. "The cemeteries are so often the last physical proof of centuries of Jewish life in the towns and villages of Europe, which were wiped out in the Shoah. There is no better proof to deny Holocaust denial."
Drones are collecting critical topographic data used in the creation of preservation efforts for these sites.
"Preserving our Jewish history creates a vital link to our past, which in turn makes us more aware of the present and shapes our future," Rabbi Isaac Schapira, the initiative's founder, said to AP. "We owe our ancestors this duty and mark of respect by ensuring their final resting places are restored and preserved."