Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide

Holy Land (Palestine and Israel)

Holy Land is the hotly disputed area in the Middle East that is holy to three religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and is currently variously recognized as either belonging to Israel, Palestine or both. As Lithuania is a longstanding Christian country that also has a well-entrenched Jewish minority, there are numerous Lithuania-related places in the Holy Land.

Lithuanian relics in the Christian religious sites

Lithuania has a representation in the international Holy Land Christian sites.

In the Pater Noster church in Jerusalem where the Lord's Prayer is written in many languages, there is also a Lithuanian version (inside the church).

In the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth where Virgin Mary once lived and received the vision that she is to give birth to Jesus Christ there are many Works of art depicting Mary donated by various countries and their people. Among them is an artwork from Lithuania based on the Virgin Mary painting on the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius.

Additionally, the city of Vilnius is mentioned on the Polish Mary that depicts locations where Poles have suffered during World War 2.

Lithuanian image of Virgin Mary in the Nazareth church (left) and Lithuanian Lord's Prayer in the Jerusalem Paternoster church (right).

Rich Lithuanians have supported the upkeep and restoration of the Christian holy sites. The fund of Lithuanian-American businessman Kazickas has funded the reconstruction of the Jerusalem Calvary chapels (this is marked by a plaque).

Memorial plaque for the sponsors of the Jerusalem Calvary, with the surname of Kazickas family.

Lithuanian (Litvak) heritage among the Israeli Jews

Most of the Holy Land is currently controlled by Israel. The majority of people there are Jews. Jews have immigrated from many countries all over the world, and many have arrived from Lithuania (these Jews are known as Litvaks). It is estimated that by 19th century Lithuania had some 350 thousand Jews, of which only some 200 thousand remained by the census year of 1923. By 1959, Lithuania had 25 thousand Jews and now it has merely 3 thousand.

Most of this decline happened due to emigration. Holy Land was among the primary destinations of Lithuania's Jewish emigration (together with USA, South Africa, and Russia). Therefore, many Jews in the Holy Land have their roots among the Lithuanian Jewry.

That said, typically, the Jewish migrants to Holy Land would integrate into the local Jewry and not pass down the Lithuanian traditions over generations.

Still, the name "Lithuania" and its cities may be seen in many biographies of prominent past (early-to-mid 20th century) Jews that are available in Israel. Many streets in Israel are named after such Lithuania-born Jews.

Lithuania-born Jewish architects among many architects presented in the 2nd floor of Shalom tower as the architects who constructed Tel Aviv.

Additionally, some 10% of Israel's population are Haredis, also known as Ultra-orthodox Jews. This deeply religious school of thought has one of two of its branches called "Litvish" or "Lithuanian". The main yeshiva (religious school) of this branch is called after Panevėžys city - Ponevezh yeshiva, as it was relocated from Panevėžys in the World War 2 era. It stands in the Orthodox-majority city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv. Among its key personalities was a Lithuanian-born rabbi Elazar Shach (1899-2001) who has a street named after him in Bnei Brak.

Ponevezh Lithuanian yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Israel. Google Street View.

As opposed to the other descendants of Litvaks who have adopted the Hebrew language, the Haredi descendants typically still speak the Yiddish language which used to be spoken by the Jews in Lithuania before they became Russified during the Soviet Union occupation. They also dress in the traditional garments. Visiting Haredi districts thus provides the best still-possible insight in how the 19th century Lithuania's Jewish districts (shtetls) looked like.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Asia / Africa, Israel / Palestine No Comments