TRAVEL with pat and lew

Archive for the ‘… France – Carpentras’ Category

* a cemetery in Gordes … lavender fields … a synagogue in Carpentras

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 12, 2010

It is impossible to come around the bend in the road, high in the hills after winding along narrow roads, and not say “wow!” when the town of Gordes presents itself. Pat took this photo hanging out the back window of the car as we crawled along the road out of town.

"WOW!"

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The town is beautiful. We were there on market day and it was crammed with visitors, which always adds to the fun for us. We had a simple lunch and good conversation with an interesting couple who live in Singapore and London.

Marc Chagall summered in Gordes, and the Hungarian artist Victor Vasereley lived here year-round but our main objective was to re-visit the cemetery we had stumbled over during our first visit a decade or so ago. There is a small portion of this cemetery where all the graves are dated July and August of 1944, in the weeks after the D-day invasion when the retreating Germans committed unprovoked murder all over France. From what I could find on the web, these people were innocent villagers killed by the Nazis in reprisal for some action by resistance fighters, since Gordes was a major center of the the French Resistance. If anyone reading this blog knows the actual story, please write in. There is a sense of emotion around that cemetery which surely emanates from the heroes who died here.

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The ride from Gordes to Carpentras passed through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery you will ever see. Here’s a sample.

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As if the mountains weren’t spectacular enough, we came across one of Pat’s major objectives, a glorious field of lavender nestled in a cleft between the hills adjacent to an ancient monastery.

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Carpentras was a commercial site used by Greek merchants, and was later known to Romans as Carpentoracte Meminorum, mentioned by Pliny. In addition, it has long been an important center of French Judaism, and is home to the oldest synagogue in France (1367), which still holds services.

It’s the “still holds services” that is the remarkable thing about this synagogue and indeed about the Jewish people. Wherever Jews go, wherever Jews are driven, Jews survive. In the picture below, on the bima facing the ark which holds the holy Torah, there is a card containing the prayers to be said by those called to honor the the Torah. In synagogues as remote from each other as Marrakesh and Budapest, New York and Moscow, that card and the service itself is identical. Surely this consistency of worship is one of the reasons why we’re still here.

the oldest synagogue in France

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