Old City of Oporto, Portugal
Old City of Oporto, PortugaliStock

The Jewish Community of Oporto in Portugal has inaugurated its first new cemetery in five centuries.

The ceremony, which took place on Yom Hazikaron, included prayers to dedicate the property as sacred ground as well as a tribute to fallen Israeli soldiers, the Portuguese Jewish News reported.

Attending the event were rabbis from Portugal, Israel, the United States and the UK.

The last cemetery the community operated was demolished in 1497 after Portugal issued a law banning Judaism in the country.

"We do not forget in the past we were robbed of all our assets, houses, even the cemetery was destroyed,” Oporto Rabbi Asaf Portal said at the ceremony.

The new cemetery is named Isaac Aboab Field of Equality. Aboab was the last Gaon (Talmudic scholar) in Oporto who died in the city after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492.

“Unfortunately, we do not even know where the last Gaon is buried, because the persecution destroyed all traces of the Jewish community of the time,” Oporto’s Chief Rabbi Daniel Litvak said during the ceremony.

Oporto Rabbi Yoel Zekri commented on the location outside the city: “It would be impossible in Oporto to build a private cemetery in a quiet, discreet location. The community decided to buy land outside the city, in Maia in a quiet location 8 km from Oporto."

Maia Mayor António Silva Tiago attended the ceremony, remarking that "Jews are and will always be very well received in Maia, which is a city close to Oporto, with a long Jewish tradition and which is currently increasingly cosmopolitan and thriving."

The new cemetery has 300 graves, family vaults and a purification building, according to the report.

“The new cemetery of the Jewish community of Oporto is proof that the Jews always regenerate,” President of Chabad Portugal Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld said at the ceremony, which he called a “monumental occasion.”