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Visitor Information Old

Here you can find some general information for planing your visit at Etz Hayyim, regarding both, single- or group tours. Click on the Tabs below for further details.

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Etz Hayyim Synagogue welcomes guests of every faith.


We ask that visitors respect the following:


  • This is an active Synagogue and visitors are required to dress appropriately. When entering the Synagogue men must have their heads covered, and woman their shoulders (kippoth and shawls are available for use).


  • Food and/or drinks as well as photographs are not allowed inside the Synagogue.


  • Groups of more than ten people will NOT be allowed at the same time. Groups must notify the Synagogue at least 24 hours in advance with the number of guest and the time of their visit. Tour operators are expected to leave a donation of 2 Euro per person with the Synagogue staff.


  • Tours within the Synagogue will be given by Synagogue Staff and Volunteers ONLY.


  • The Synagogue is volunteer based and needs your support to remain open. A minimum donation of 2 Euro per person is suggested.


  • Synagogue Staff and Volunteers have the right to deny access to groups or individuals that do not conform to the rules of the Synagogue or for safety reasons.

Update: As of 6 November, due to a countrywide lock-down, Etz Hayyim Synagogue will remain closed until further notice.


Due to Covid-19 measures, attendance at services is strictly limited.


If you wish to participate you must contact the synagogue office (info@etz-hayyim-hania.org or +30-2821086286) to check availability and confirm your participation. You will only be admitted if your attendance was confirmed.


Masks are required at all times during community events. Masks are also required for children from 4 years of age.


Please see further details below.


You can find information on the Covid-19 situation in Hania here: https://covid19.gov.gr/covid-map/

The Synagogue is closed on Greek public holidays.


During the opening hours, the staff of the Synagogue gives guided tours to visitors with information about the history of the Cretan Jewish community, the history of Etz Hayyim Synagogue and the historic Jewish quarter of Hania.

Equally, the facilities of the Synagogue (Mikveh, library, exhibitions) are accessible during opening hours.

Etz Hayyim is first and foremost a place of prayer and recollection.


Despite not having an official community, we have Kabbalath Shabbat services every Friday evening and also celebrate most holidays. Everyone who wishes to participate is welcome.


Our ritual in Greece today is uniformly Sefardi and the Siddur that we use is the traditional form as it has evolved in Jerusalem and Safed.


Prayer Services: Kabbalath Shabbat prayers are held each Friday. For candle lighting times and upcoming Holidays also see the calendar of events.

Shabbat Cover

No Kosher Food on Crete.


There are no certified kosher facilities of any kind on Crete. Persons concerned about Kashrut should consult the Athens Jewish Community.


Persons interested in the culinary traditions of Greek and Cretan Jews should consult “The Cookbook of the Jews of Greece” and the “Western Cretan Cookbook” by Nikos Stavroulakis. Both are available against donation at the Synagogue.

Please see our calendar of events for the current schedule of festivals.


Events at Etz Hayyim Synagogue are organized according to the Jewish liturgical year but also includes occasional intrusions in the form of concerts and lectures.  As we do not have a resident Jewish community this means that we rarely have a proper minyan. However we are more than sensitive to a guiding directive of the Synagogue that it be a house of prayer open to all Jews and those who share our values as children within the tradition of Abraham. Consequently our services are determined to a great degree by specific Jewish denominational needs.  We have daily prayer books (sidurim) according to the Sepharadic and Mizrahi traditions.  For the greater festivals we also have festival prayer books (mahzorim) as well as talleths and tephillin that are either Sephardic or as needed Ashkenazic. These are available on request by all visitors’  We also have prayer booklets that are based on Conservative, Reform and even Reconstructionist texts that permit active participation for most Jews and even non-Jews.



Our New Year at Etz Hayyim begins with Arvith (evening) prayers in the Synagogue and then we assemble in a nearby restaurant for a vegetarian communal meal.  Baked fish is the main course and in keeping with Greek Jewish custom prior to that are served pomegranates and apples soaked in honey and the head of the fish is especially favored by some during the meal.


YOM KIPPUR – The Day of Atonement.

Depending on visitors and request a pre-fast meal of boiled chicken etc. is served.  We have on hand service booklets for Kol Nidre and accompanying prayers.  The Ehal is kept open for the service.  The following morning the service is usually led by a young Israeli Lior Asher, In the late afternoon we usually read or listen to the reading of the traditional Cretan text of the Book of Jonah in its Greek version but written in Hebrew characters.  For Neilah we assemble again for the traditional Sephardi service.  Usually the breaking of the Fast is done in the courtyard after the blowing of the Shofar.  On occasion a communal meal is served afterwards.



In keeping with admonitions we begin to build the Sukkah on the day after Yom Kippur.  This is built in the main courtyard of the Synagogue and for the following days until its completion we prepare decorations and hangings that will complete it.  On the eve we bless it and usually have a banquet meal.  Lulav and etrog are prominently displayed. For all of the subsequent days these are available in the synagogue before the Ehal along with prayer books for the recitation of the blessings and waving of the lulav. As a rule bowls of fruit and nuts are kept on a table in the Sukkah so that visitors can eat and recite the blessings for the feast – if nothing more.  Some observant people bring prepared ‘picnic’ lunches that are eaten in the Sukkah as well.



Pesah is a major holiday for most Jews and we are admonished to invite our non-Jewish to eat with us and to hear told the story of freedom from slavery – of every sort.  We prepare quite early as it means getting matsoth from Athens as well as kosher wine that will be used at the seder but more often than not for the eight days of the festival.  The mikveh is made spotlessly clean for those who wish to use it for ritually purification of cooking and eating utensils. It is a time when we expect many visiotrs as some people return to celebrate Pesah with us – from Israel, Greece, France, the US and the UK. The traditional search for hametz (leavened food) is carried out in the afternoon and the desiccated lulav that has been kept from Sukkot is used as a broom to gather it together and then burnt along with the symbolic hametz before the gate of the synagogue.


Arvit prayers are said in the Synagogue and then we assemble in a nearby restaurant to recite the Haggadah and to then enjoy a proper meal together.  The recitation of the Haggadah is done from a text that we have created that is our own Cretan Haggadah…the meal is usually vegetarian and made up of dishes that are traditionally eaten in Greece at Pesah by Jews of either the Romaniot or Sephardi communities.



Advanced notice is made as to the times when either the lighting of the Hanukah or for the recitation of the Megillah Esther take place. For Tu B’ Shvat we celebrate together as a fraternity and have a potted tree that dominates a festive table with red and white wine as well as nuts, figs and dates and in our usage a great bowl of Assoureh…marinated fruits, nuts, beans, wheat kernels, and liberally sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.  Usually after the reciting of the blessings we have a banquet dinner.



We have had seven weddings in the Synagogue.  There are problems with both the religious establishment in Israel as well as Greek law in having them determined as being legally valid.  We insist only that there be a valid secular wedding beforehand and then proceed to keep to the betrothal act and the reading of a ketubah. Central for us is the recitation of the Seven Blessings over the bride and groom which is usually performed by seven close friends of theirs under the huppah.  At Etz Hayyim we have revived a very ancient Judaeo-Greek custom of having the bride and groom wear crowns made of flowers.  As we are near to the sea it is usually the custom for bride to go swimming rather than to resort to our mikveh which, being fed by artesian sources is quite cold and intimidating.


For these to take place we need bring a rabbi from Athens.  It is essential that the young person be in close contact with the rabbi and to satisfy his understanding of how committed they are as Jews…and to be proficient in reading the section of the Torah that is appropriate. How this is done is circumstantially determined.


View on the Bema.
Interior space of Etz Hayyim.
Rosh Hashanah. Pen and ink drawing by Nikos Stavroulakis; (c) 2008.
Rosh Hashanah. Pen and ink drawing by Nikos Stavroulakis copyright 2008.
Pesah. Pen and Ink drawing by Nikos Stavroulakis; (c) 2002.
Pesah. Pen and Ink drawing by Nikos Stavroulakis, copyright 2002.
Elijah Pesach; 201 B.
Elijah Pesach; 201 B.

Our Mikveh is kosher (i.e. it has “mayyim hayyim” – living water flowing through it). However, it is an historic Mikveh with stone steps and basin and cold spring water directly from the White Mountains south of Hania.


The Mikveh is accessible and can be used only during the opening hours of the Synagogue. Please note that we cannot provide an attendant (shomer). Please also bring a towel.

Etz Hayyim is located in the old town of Hania (inside the city walls) and there is plenty of accommodation available close by. Please check the usual booking websites as we cannot make specific recommendations or have the resources to assist with finding accommodation.