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Visitor Information

Etz Hayyim Synagogue will remain closed until 8 January and open again to the public on Monday, 9 January.

Etz Hayyim Synagogue welcomes visitors of all backgrounds and faiths

We kindly ask that visitors respect the following:


  • As Etz Hayyim is an active synagogue, visitors must please dress appropriately. Kippot and prayer shawls are provided at the entrance
  • Etz Hayyim does not receive any Government/State funding so we rely on the generosity of our supporters.  A minimum contribution of 4 euros per person will crucially help to fund the day-to-day running and maintenance of the synagogue
  • Groups (of more than 10 people) must notify the synagogue at least 24 hours in advance with the number of guests and approximate time of visit. Tour operators are required to leave a contribution of 4 euros per person with the staff to support the upkeep of the synagogue
  • Guided tours of the synagogue are exclusively given by the staff
  • Photography is permitted inside the synagogue, except for selfies
  • We recommend the use of masks inside the synagogue


Usual synagogue opening hours are Mondays to Thursdays 10 am- 4 pm, Fridays 10 am- 3 pm. The synagogue is closed on Saturdays and Greek public holidays.


  • During our opening hours, the Etz Hayyim staff gives guided tours on request to visitors about the history of Etz Hayyim Synagogue and the local historic Jewish Quarter, Evraiki, as well as the Cretan Jewish community
  • Information pamphlets in a number of languages are also provided to visitors inside the synagogue
  • The facilities of the synagogue (Mikveh, exhibitions) are accessible during our opening hours
  • .We need your support! Please consider making a donation to Etz Hayyim Synagogue. Click on the link “Donations” below for further details.

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


.Today, Etz Hayyim has a small resident community of (Jewish and non-Jewish) members of all nationalities and faiths who regularly attend our services and celebrate most holidays. We also have a large international Havurah (circle of friends) of people who have discovered Etz Hayyim and return to Chania and to the synagogue when they can. As well, over 25,000 tourists visit us every year. Everyone who wishes to participate in the life of Etz Hayyim is welcome!


While Etz Hayyim is a Romaniote synagogue, today our liturgical practice is Sefardi and the Siddur that we use is the traditional form as it has evolved in Jerusalem and Safed. Kabbalat Shabbat prayers are held each Friday evening. For candle lighting times and upcoming Holidays also see our events.

Torah Shrine (Ehal) at Etz Hayyim.
Torah Shrine (Ehal) at Etz Hayyim.

Kosher food on Crete

To our knowledge, there are no certified kosher facilities of any kind on Crete. Individuals concerned about Kashrut should consult the Athens Jewish Community or the Athens Chabad office. There are, however, two vegetarian restaurants in Hania’s Old Town that are open between May and October

Anyone interested in the culinary traditions of Greek and Cretan Jews may also consult “The Cookbook of the Jews of Greece” and the “Western Cretan Cookbook” by Nikos Stavroulakis. Both books are available against donation at the synagogue

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


Events at Etz Hayyim Synagogue are organised according to the Jewish liturgical year, but also includes occasional concerts and lectures. For our services, including Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday evenings, we do not always have a minyan (a quorum of ten men over the age of 13 required for traditional Jewish public worship). Nevertheless, we still hold services regardless of whether we have a minyan or not and we welcome people of all faiths who want to participate or to pray at any time during our opening hours. We can provide upon request sidurim (daily prayer books) according to the Sephardi and Mizrahi traditions and mahzorim (festival prayer books) for all of the major Jewish festivals, together with talleths (prayer shawls) and tephillin (phylacteries containing scrolls of parchment with verses from the Torah). We also have prayer booklets that are based on Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist texts that permit active participation for most Jews and even non-Jews. Some of the annual Jewish festivals that Etz Hayyim observes include:


Rosh Hashanah (New Year)

Our New Year at Etz Hayyim begins with Arvith (evening) prayers in the synagogue after which we assemble in a nearby restaurant for a vegetarian communal meal that includes the Greek Jewish custom of pomegranates and apples soaked in honey, followed by baked fish, among other delicacies.


Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)

We begin with the Kol Nidre service accompanying prayers. The following morning, the service is led by when of our Visiting Rabbis and 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. For Neilah, we assemble again for the traditional Sephardi service followed by the breaking of the Fast in the northern courtyard after the blowing of the shofar (ram’s horn).  On occasion, a communal meal is served afterwards.


Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

In keeping with admonitions, community members together build and decorate the Sukkah (a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long festival of Sukkot) on the day after Yom Kippur in the northern courtyard of Etz Hayyim. On the eve of Sukkot, we bless the Sukkah and then hold a banquet meal. For all of the subsequent days of Sukkot, the lulav (closed frond of a date palm tree) and ethrog (citron) are placed on a table in the Sukkah, along with bowls of fruits and nuts so that visitors can eat and recite the blessings for the feast. Some observant visitors bring prepared picnic lunches that are eaten in the Sukkah as well.


Pesah (Passover)

Pesah is a major holiday for most Jews and often, we invite our non-Jewish friends to join with us to hear the story of the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt and the ‘passing over’ of forces of destruction. We prepare early for this festival by acquiring matsoth (unleavened flatbread) and kosher wine from Athens and Israel to be used during the seder meals, but also for the eight days of the festival. The Mikveh is cleaned specifically beforehand to allow for those individuals who wish to use it for the ritual purification of cooking and eating utensils. The traditional search for hametz (leavened food) takes place in the first afternoon of the festival and the desiccated lulav that has been kept from Sukkot is used as a broom to gather it together and then burnt it, along with the symbolic hametz in front of the synagogue’s entrance. Led by one of our Visiting Rabbis, Arvit prayers are recited in the synagogue followed by the first communal Passover seder meal at a nearby restaurant where the Haggadah (a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover seder meal) is read before we eat altogether. Etz Hayyim has produced its own Cretan Haggadah, written and illustrated by Nikos Stavroulakis and available at the synagogue against donation. The seder meal is usually vegetarian and consists of dishes combining both Romaniote or Sephardi traditions in Greece.


The Minor Festivals of Tu B’shvat, Purim and Hanukah

We also celebrate the festivals of Tu B’shvat, Purim and Hanukah with advanced notice provided for the times when the lighting of the Hanukah takes place and for the recitation of the Megillah Esther for Purim, for example. For Tu B’ Shvat, community members come together over the festive table with a potted tree, wine, as well as nuts, figs and dates and the traditional Assoureh (marinated fruits, nuts, beans, wheat kernels, liberally sprinkled with pomegranate seeds). Usually after the recitation of the blessings at this table, we hold a banquet dinner.


Weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs

Etz Hayyim has hosted a number of weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs over the years. These weddings at the synagogue always follow a valid secular wedding beforehand; the betrothal act and the reading of a ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) is then performed by one of our Visiting Rabbis in the synagogue. For each wedding, the recitation of the Seven Blessings over the bride and groom is usually performed by seven close friends of the betrothed couple under the chuppah (a canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during the wedding ceremony). At Etz Hayyim, we have revived the ancient Judaeo-Greek custom of having the bride and groom wear crowns made of flowers and because the synagogue is located near the sea, it is usually customary for bride to go swimming, rather than to use our Mikveh prior to the wedding.


For couples interested in hosting their wedding at Etz Hayyim, or for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, please contact the synagogue directly for any enquiries. We can also advise on the legal requirements for getting married in Greece, as well as wedding planning.

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

Our Mikveh is kosher. For example, the Mikveh has mayyim Hayyim (living water) flowing through it.


However, it is an historic Mikveh with stone steps and basin and cold spring water flowing directly from the White Mountains to the south of Hania.


The Mikveh is accessible to visitors and can be used only during the opening hours of the synagogue. (Mondays to Thursdays 11 am- 4 pm, Fridays 11 am- 3 pm)


Please contact the synagogue beforehand to make an appointment to use our Mikveh and bring a towel. Please note that we cannot provide a shomer (attendant).

Mikveh, stairs into water pool.
Mikveh, stairs into water pool. © Anastasios Skikos