Etz Hayyim (Hebrew for ‘Tree of Life’) is the only synagogue today in Crete having been revived almost 50 years after the Nazi German deportation of the island’s Jewish community in June 1944 during the Second World War. As such, Etz Hayyim is the only testament to a rich Cretan Jewish heritage that lasted for over 2000 years throughout the periods of Roman, Byzantine, Andalusian Arab, Venetian and Ottoman control of the island and which almost came to an abrupt end in 1944 during the German Occupation.
Today, it is both an active place of worship serving the needs of a small multinational and multifaith Havurah (fraternity), as well as a vibrant community and cultural centre that hosts exhibitions, lectures, readings, films and concerts. Its small team of dedicated staff undertake ongoing research into the history of the Cretan Jewish community at the same time as engaging both local and international school groups and teachers as part of the synagogue’s ongoing educational outreach program.
The synagogue welcomes Jews of all different backgrounds, along with non-Jewish visitors who can take a guided tour of the synagogue and learn all about Cretan Jewish history and traditions by one of our staff members or attend our regular Kabbalat Shabbat and high holiday services. Two decades after its rededication in 1999, Etz Hayyim has, in this way, become a fixture in the religious and socio-cultural life of Hania as a place of prayer, study, recollection and reconciliation.
We invite you to explore our rich history as well as our current activities and events.