A Truly Kosher Visit to the Jewish Cemetery

One of the most interesting and unusual visits I’ve ever taken part in in Mallorca was to the Jewish Cemetery in Santa Eugenia.

Seems like a strange visit, doesn’t it: a tour of a cemetery? It’s generally a place that people avoid if possible. But this one was special…

Jewish Cemetery in Mallorca Santa Eugenia Jewish Cemetery in Mallorca

It would seem that I was not the only one who was interested in this visit, because there were more than twenty of us in our group who met up last Sunday morning in Santa Eugenia outside the only Jewish cemetery in the Balearic Islands.

“Winter Activities” in Mallorca

Did you know that we have created a group here in Mallorca called “Winter Activities“? It started in 2012 as a group of friends who liked to visit the island and enjoy different routes during our time off work in the winter.

This group got very popular and we now have more members than we can count, of all different age groups, nationalities and professions. We make an eclectic group and there are always new additions.

To learn more about Winter Activities, you can visit the official Winter Activities page, developed and maintained by Toni from Click-Mallorca.com
Or to see the photos from our different activities, you can visit my own Flickr collection.

Our visit to the Jewish Cemetery in Mallorca

We were greeted by David, the person in charge of the cemetery, who had driven to Santa Eugenia especially to meet us and show us a little of his culture, giving up his own Sunday morning.

David was instantly likeable: he was passionate about what he was telling us about Judaism and though he was clearly a true believer in his religion, he had a way of presenting his information objectively so that those of us looking in from the outside could easily get a view into his world and understand why certain things were done in a certain way.

Jewish Cemetery in Mallorca

David took us inside the small room where the mourners congregate and where the religious service takes place when someone passes away. From here and with us all comfortably seated in the sparse and simple hall, he patiently spoke to us for nearly an hour about his religion and culture and gave us a beautifully presented overview of its history and development.

Most of the information was centred around the Jewish cemetery and what happens there, so he told us about the burials and the religious services and the rituals the mourners are expected to take part in according to the Jewish religion: we learnt about the reasons the dead body is washed so thoroughly, the clothes that the mourners should wear and why the body must be buried and not cremated. We learnt about reincarnation and what happens after death and we learnt what happens if the deceased has a tattoo (it is removed before burial because the body must be returned to God in the same condition in which it was received).

Soon we were all so intrigued, that we were asking questions about all aspects of Judaism, not just those things related with the Jewish cemetery. David patiently answered every one of our questions with simple and concise information. His knowledge was extensive, though he was very modest, calling himself a simple Jew as opposed to the wise older Jews who study the Kabbalah.

We learnt why the male members of our group were expected to where a Kippah (Jewish skullcap) before entering the Jewish building as a sign of respect, we learnt that the Jewish religion is hereditary and is passed down through females (of course, anyone can convert to Judaism as well) and we learnt how tricky it is to be a Jew in Mallorca where Catholicism is the official religion and where pork plays such an important role in the diet and culture. For instance, have you ever tried to buy kosher meat in Palma? Don’t bother, you won’t find it; the Jews in Mallorca have to bring it in from outside. And the same goes for wine; all those wine cellars in Mallorca and not one of them produces a few bottle of kosher to cater for the approx. 10,000 Jews currently residing in Mallorca.

Jewish Cemetery in Mallorca Jewish Cemetery in Mallorca Jewish Cemetery in Mallorca

As well as having what turned out to be a fascinating chat about all the above and much more, David also took us to see the actual graveyard itself. He showed us how the graves are dug, explained the symbols and words engraved in Hebrew on the gravestones and basically explained the whole process. He explained why the mourners or visitors to a grave throw a pebble or stone on the tomb with their left hand, rather than leaving flowers and he explained why most of the text on the gravestones was in English rather than Spanish – this is because it is an international Jewish cemetery and many of the residents are from foreign families, not Spanish.

Santa Eugenia

Santa Eugenia is a small municipality, with less than 2,000 inhabitants, in the countryside in Mallorca, near Santa Maria.

Santa Eugenia Santa Eugenia Santa Eugenia Santa Eugenia

Santa Eugenia is one of those beautiful Mallorcan pueblos full of charm and history that is simply a delight to stroll through, especially on a day like this January Sunday morning when the sky was blue, the fields were green and the almond blossom was just beginning to flourish.

As our group of 20+ strolled around the rustic stone buildings and old village streets, we were ambushed by a chatty local woman who launched into the history and usage of an old barn that we had stopped to look at, and charmed us with her knowledge and enthusiasm. She talked to us excitedly in hurried Mallorquin and rarely stopped for breath!

jewish cemetery in mallorca

Most of the members of our group who had moved to Mallorca from mainland Spain strolled away discreetly because they couldn’t understand a word she was saying! But for those of us who could follow her words, she had us hanging on every one of them, just for her sheer enthusiasm of this old dilapidated building.

Why build a Jewish cemetery in Santa Eugenia?

The Jewish cemetery has been in Santa Eugenia since 1972. Before that there was no Jewish cemetery in the Balearic Islands. And nowadays this is one of just four in the whole of Spain. Despite that, it is still very small.

Santa Eugenia does not have a long or detailed history intertwined with Judaism any more than any other small town or village on the island, nor does it have a large Jewish population, and there was no romantic or historical draw to Santa Eugenia as a place to build the Jewish cemetery. The simple reason why the Jewish cemetery is in Santa Eugenia is because this was the only municipality on Mallorca that gave permission to build the Jewish cemetery! The towns halls of Palma, Andratx and other places on the island refused the request.

Santa Eugenia

Panoramic view of Santa Eugenia countryside

The Jewish cemetery in Santa Eugenia is actually right next to the municipal cemetery, though one is not accessible from the other and they are run completely separately from one another. In fact, while the municipal cemetery receives funding from the government, the Jewish cemetery relies completely on donations.

More about Judaism in Mallorca

After that splendid morning at the Jewish cemetery I could go on and on about the Jews in Mallorca and the fascinating facts I learnt – such as the fact that a sacred object, such as a Kippah or religious book, cannot be thrown in the bin or destroyed even when it is so old that it no longer serves a purpose, but that there is a space in the Jewish cemetery where it can actually be buried – but I won’t. We will revisit this topic though, when we visit the synagogue in Palma with our new friend David, or when we do a guided walk of the old Jewish Quarter in Palma.

I hope that you have enjoyed this little introduction to Judaism on InMyShoesTravel.

Those of you who know me well know that I personally do not consider myself part of any particular religion (and there are some that I downright disagree with) but that I consider religion and culture one of the most important elements of travel and am very keen to learn more on this vast subject. One of the very few regrets I have in my life was not having stuck with the religious education subject I was assigned in high school, instead of exchanging it for the trendy business studies that turned out to be a complete waste of time.

Please join me on more of my cultural journeys learning about the people of the world in this section of the blog: Religion and Culture.

I would like to remind you that all the photos used on this website are my own unless otherwise stated. You can see all my photos from this particular excursion in the slideshow below:

If you are using a mobile device and cannot see the slideshow, please click here.

Filed Under: featuredmallorcaReligion and CulturespainWhere I Am Right NowWinter Activities

About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....

RSSComments (6)

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  1. susan sykes says:

    I really enjoyed this blog, as like you I didn’t know anything about the Jewish burials, we have a Jewish cemetery in Leeds which I passed every morning on my way to work, and I always thought how bare it looked as there are no flowers on the graves.

  2. Susan Melvin says:

    HI LIsa,

    Love your site:)
    There are 6 of us renting a house in Mallorca and all 6 of us happen to be Jewish. I thought that this might be an interesting excursion and I was wondering if you are able to send me the infer for David, your guide to the Jewish Cemetery in Santa Eugenia.
    Look forward to hearing back from you.
    Cheers,
    Susan Melvin

    • Michael jacobs says:

      Hi reda yr text antände Sankta eugenia jewish cementera and the person david in chargé of it.,did you ge this tel.nr?

  3. Nick Sanett says:

    My Nana is burred there! Who indecently died 27 years ago last weekend

    • Lisa says:

      Wow really?
      I don’t know if you have been there, but I thought it was a very peaceful place and carefully looked after 🙂
      Regards x

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