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Recent Acquisition: an 18th cent. Tombstone

  |   Historical Information
[nggallery id=11]One of the most interesting hotels in Hania is the Doma located at a cut off from Hania to Halepa and Akrotiri.  Owned by two sisters – Rena and Joanna Valyraki/Koutsoudaki it was once their family home and it still retains much of the atmosphere of affluent ‘old-family’ Christian homes of the early 20th cent., but added to so as to create almost a museum by their father.  An avid collector he appears to have been interested in everything that reflected the Hania that was so rapidly coming to an end and apart from photographs, a quite bewildering variety of copperware for household use, he also saved many Ottoman inscriptions from mosques and tekkes that were torn down.  For us, especially prominent was a fine Jewish tomb stone.

Some years ago we were told that it was ear-marked for the synagogue and this year we were especially happy to have it installed in the south garden.

The tombstone was found in discarded rubble in the vicinity of the old Xenia Hotel at Top Hana not long after WWII.  Obviously this refuse must have been brought from the old cemetery and despite its journey was in fine condition.  Of white marble it measures 1.3 m in height and 0.45 m in width and is finely carved.  The inscription reads:

‘The funerary monument of a valiant man, who revered the Lord and eschewed evil. His name was known at the gate. The elderly, respectable and distinguished gentleman Jacob Leon, may his memory be for a blessing.

He departed to the life for the Coming Age on the 5th of the month of Elul of the year 5484 (1724) of the Creation…and upon his resting place may there be peace. May his rest be honoured.’ (Trans. Rabbi Prof. Nicholas de Lange)

Of course neither his resting place nor his rest were honoured though being in the precincts of the synagogue in a Jewish context his name at least will be honoured – hopefully for many years. We are especially indebted to the Koutsoudaki/Valyraki sisters for their gift.

We know little of the Leon family save that one of its last members was included in the arrest of the community in 1944 and subsequently died in the sinking of the Tannais.  It may be, however, that Jacob Leon was the father of Samuel Leon who was the English vice-consul who is mentioned in French consular correspondence for 1745-6. (Bulletin of Judaeo-Greek Studies 10, Summer 1992 – p. 29)

N. Stavroulakis