Etz Hayyim Synagogue is today the only existing synagogue on Crete and is thus the last testimony to almost 2,500 years of Jewish history on the island. The synagogue’s name refers to the Tree of Life as mentioned in the book of Genesis (3:22).

Since its reopening in 1999, the synagogue has been a place of prayer, recollection and reconciliation. Jewish holidays are observed by a small group of resident Jews of diverse origin, along with non-Jewish members of a Havurah (fraternity) and visitors. A number of cultural events like concerts, exhibitions and readings are also held.

After the recognition of Etz Hayyim Synagogue in 1996 as one of the “100 Most Endangered Sites,” its restoration was undertaken by Nikos Stavroulakis as a major project. The synagogue was restored in keeping with its Romaniote origins.

Photo 1: © Nikos Stavroulakis

Photo 2: © Manousos Daskalogiannis

Photo 3: © Anastasios Skikos

Etz Hayyim Synagogue Hania, drawing Nikos Stavroulakis

Etz Hayyim Synagogue, interior

Tiled inscription in pediment above entrance gate to Etz Hayyim Synagogue, design by Nikos Stavroulakis

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