The birthplace of democracy and a highlight of Greece tourism, Athens is widely regarded as “the cradle of Western civilization”. Our Jewish Athens tours give you the Jewish perspective on the capital of Greece, home to Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, but also home to a Jewish community dating back to the beginning of the first century CE. Our Athens tour guides will help you navigate the complex millennia-long history of the Jewish community in Athens, and introduce you to the breathtaking general Athens attractions, for a thrilling close-up impression of ancient and contemporary Greece!
Celebrated Judeo-Hellenistic literature dates back to the community’s first century origins. Jewish Athenians were active in Palestine under Alexander the Great, and the Midrash contains references to Jerusalem Jews having a greater wit than Athenian Jews! After the Turkish conquest of Athens (1456), Muhammad II the Conqueror allowed a number of exiles and their descendants to take refuge here following their expulsion from Spain in 1492. With the establishment of Athens as the capital of independent Greece in 1834, Jews with business interests, including the Rothchilds, began establishing themselves. Many of the Salonika Jews moved to Athens after the great Salonica fire of 1917.
Under Italian control for most of the war, Jews were less in danger in Athens than those under the Nazis. After the fall of Mussolini in September 1943, however, the Germans decimated the community. Some were saved by the communist Greek Resistance movement or by fleeing on small boats to the shores of Asia Minor, making their way then to Palestine. Upon liberation, a few thousand emerged from hiding.
There are about 3,000 Jews living in Athens today. Many of those who returned were able to build themselves good positions in business, the industry, and the professions. Our Jewish Athens tour brings us to the “Tree of Life” pre-war Athens synagogue, Etz Haim, and to the postwar, community-run Beth Shalom synagogue. There is a Jewish cemetery, a club and an elementary school, an ORT vocational school, and welfare institute. In the 1970s the Jewish Museum of Greece was founded, which has expanded since and is the center of excellent educational programs. In Melidoni Street, under the shade of the Acropolis, is a moving Holocaust Memorial with geometric marble blocks depicting a broken Magen David.
Athens is also one of our many port destinations. If you plan to visit Athens by cruise ship, we would be more than happy to arrange for
your transfer and arrival, for a wonderful Athens shore excursion!
See also: Discover Jewish Greece 2019, our special group tour in October 2019.
Half-Day Tour to Chalkis
Cross the bridge connecting the island of Euboea with the mainland to experience Chalkis, the former administrative capital of the region. This ancient seaside town boasts a beautiful Old City, complete with historic church, mosque, and synagogue. You’ll also explore the long-standing Jewish cemetery and have a chance to converse with its caretaker.