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15 Sep, 2008 12:58

Last Jew in South Ossetia

A 71-year-old woman is the last resident of the Jewish community in the South ossetian capital Tskhinval. Once home to a thriving Jewish community which dates back centuries, the city's most historic quarter is in ruins now.

An international delegation that includes members of Jewish and human rights organisations from around the world visited Tskhinval on Monday. They have met the republic's president Eduard Kokoity and visited a synagogue that was almost completely destroyed by Georgian bombs in the recent conflict.

The Jewish community was one of the first ethnic groups to settle there. The first evidence of it can be found in 13th century chronicles.

Local Jews developed trade in the region and played an important role in the economy of the whole Caucasus.

The city's synagogue has largely stood empty since the 1990-s when most Jews left after the first South Ossetian war.

In 2007 South Ossetian authorities said they are going to help revive the Jewish community in Tskhinval. In May the same year the Jewish cultural centre Shalom was registered in the city.

But the latest war has caused the last few members of the community to flee.

Now 71-year-old Rosa is the only Jew left, but her home largely lies in ruins. She was lucky to survive the Georgian bombardment.

“My Jewish friends have all gone but I have to stay. I just can't bear to leave the city where I was born and where my parents are buried”.

The family house built by her father is destroyed and the tree her mother planted to mark Rosa's birth is charcoaled and dead.