Yeghegis

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Yeghegis 3: Jewish Cemetery

 Awake and shout for joy, You who dwell in the dust! (Isaiah 26:19)

The cemetery before you belonged to the Jewish community which lived in Yeghegis in the 13th-14th centuries. No other historical evidence for the existence of this community is known, nor of contemporaneous Jewish communities in Armenia. About 40 tombstones survived in the cemetery and about another 30 were found nearby. 10 tombstones bear inscriptions in Hebrew or Aramaic.

The inscriptions contain age-old Jewish funerary language, biblical verses pregnant with traditional religious meaning, and expressions originating in Talmudic literature. Some of the names of the deceased were current among the Jews of Iran, witnessing to the possible Iranian origin of the Jewish community of Yeghegis.

The dates on the tombstones are calculated according to the “documents reckoning”, an old calendar calculating from 331 BC that was used by Oriental Jewish communities. Many were undated.

The oldest tombstone is dated 1266 and the latest 1346, showing the cemetery was in use for at least 80 years. Just as the origins of the Jews of Yeghegis are mysterious so also the circumstances that caused this community's disappearance remain hidden.

The restoration of the cemetery and its preparation for visitors is an expression of the honor accorded by the Armenian people to this ancient Jewish community that lived among them.

The cemetery was investigated by an Armenian-Israeli team in 2000-2003, headed by Prof. Michael E. Stone and Dr. David Amit. The evaluation of the cemetery and its renovation was initiated by Bishop Abraham, Primate of Diocese of Siunik of the Armenian Apostolic Church and with the support and patronage of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia.

The site was opened to the public on 17 Iyyar 5769 -- 11 May 2009