Plans are underway to expand a historic Jewish cemetery in the Maltese town of Marsa.
The Jewish Foundation of Malta is leading the project, which will include some 10,750 square feet of previously unused land. The 145-year-old cemetery, and two others in Malta, have reportedly reached capacity.
About 100 Jews, mostly Sefardim, live in Malta, per the World Jewish Congress, which notes that the country has seen “a recent resurgence in the practice of Jewish life.”
Jews likely arrived in Malta some 3,000 years ago, although a permanent Jewish presence there likely dates back to the second half of the first century, according to the WJC. Jews were oppressed in present-day Malta under the Inquisition, and were enslaved for centuries. Christopher Marlowe’s late 16th-century play “The Jew of Malta” famously captures some of the country’s Jew-hatred.
During the Holocaust, however, Malta was the only European country to admit Jews without visas, so many Jews fled there from the Nazis.
“Malta rescued thousands of Jews from persecution,” according to the WJC. “Numerous Maltese Jews or Jews arrived in Malta, and many fought the Nazi regime in the British Army during the war.”
The restoration of the cemetery is part of a broader crowdfunding effort to preserve Jewish Maltese cemeteries, which has raised some $2,000 of a target of more than $110,000.