My friends and I had a long ride from east to west today. Starting from the Hasidic hot-spot of Medzhybizh, we returned to Lviv with stops in Volochysk, Zbarazh and Zaliztsi. Join us on the last day of our four days Jewish heritage trip through Volhynia, Podolia and Galicia in Ukraine!
Last night Marla, Jay, Vasyl and I arrived in Medzhybizh and continued our trip early in the morning. The small Volhynian town is famous for its rich heritage – an imposing fortress tells of the past. But mainly Medzhybizh is known for the burial place of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. Year by year the Jewish cemetery, the reconstruction of the Baal Shem Tov’s Beit Midrash and other locations attract more pilgrims. Hotels have been build, shops established and a whole infrastructure for religious Jews has been set up. There is a constant coming and going of buses and cars.
While we approached further west, we decided to have a stop on Volochysk, originally not on our itinerary. Vasyl remembered a Jewish cemetery in the small town and had no difficulties to find it. The cemetery was nearly fully vandalized in the past. Now residents return fragments of tombstones – among them two fragments that have been abused as grindstones.
The Galician town of Zbarazh turned out to be bigger and more interesting than expected. The old Jewish cemetery does not exist any more. It was destroyed in the 1970s and build over with a kindergarten and a playground. The new cemetery is still there, but was destroyed to an big extent; yet it was not build over. The Great Synagogue is part of a factory – a vodka distillery.
Our last stop was in the town of Zaliztsi. At sundown we reached the Jewish cemetery – now empty space. Some returned tombstone fragments indicate the purpose of the territory.
Tonight we returned to Lviv, but we are already planning a new trip for the upcoming weekend – so stay tuned.
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