Sunday, July 6.
Headed into town, to do the Jewish thing. First stop was the Portugese Jewish Synagogue. The second biggest in Europe. What was only going to take an hour turned into three and a half hours. What an educational experience. We were able to look at all areas, including the vaults, meeting rooms, synagogue both upstairs for women and downstairs for men. Interesting that the floor is wooden and sprinkled with sand to deaden the sound of footsteps, and there is no electricity in the Synagogue, all light is by seventy large windows and huge candelabras full of candles. It takes them two hours to light all the candles prior to a service. The large windows saved the Synagogue during the war from damage from the Germans. It would have been impossible to blackout all the windows so the Germans could use the building so they left it alone.
We both realised that not only is it a religion, but a way of life. This includes not only how and when you pray, but what and when you eat, what, when and how you wear clothes and so on. They actually follow 613 commandments, which by coincidence is the same number of seeds in a pome grate. This fruit has significant importance to the Jewish faith and can be seen adorning columns, furniture and vestments. They eat it also. We were also fortunate to be able to try some of their traditional food.
Leaving the synagogue we walked across the road the the Jewish Heritage Centre, and yes we were thrown out at 5.30. The centre covers the history of the Jews in Holland from early beginnings, through the atrocities forced on them during the Second World War, their resurgence following the war, right up to the present day.
Given all that they have been through, they have shown great resolve and belief in their faith. Of the 127,000 who were taken from Amsterdam during the war, only 4,000 returned. It does not make sense. Most of their stories are tragic, like Ann Frank, who hopefully we will visit tomorrow or Tuesday.