51.000 sign petition against centre being built on 500-year-old Vilnius cemetery

More than 51,000 people have signed a petition opposing plans to build a convention centre on top of a 500-year-old Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

Begun by Ruta Bloshtein, an Orthodox Jewish woman who lives in the city, it urges authorities instead to restore the Old Šnipiškės Jewish Cemetery, where thousands of Jewish people are buried, and return it to the Jewish community.

The city, once called Vilna, was a centre of Jewish life in Europe, winning the nickname “Jerusalem of the North”, and dozens of reputed scholars are buried there.

“It is sacred ground and should be restored as a cemetery and memorial park to which pilfered gravestones that turn up all over the city can be returned,” the petition reads.

“Instead, some greedy business interests, co-operating politicians, antisemitic nationalists and ‘pliant Jewish figures’ have joined forces for a new National Convention Center to rise on the site, where thousands would revel, cheer, sing, drink at bars and use toilets surrounded by Jewish graves.”

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