Anno Mundi 5490

By: Louk Vreeswijk

Dec 26 2021

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Category: Europe, Netherlands

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The Jewish cemetery at ‘Ouderkerk aan de Amstel’ near Amsterdam is called Beth Haim which means House of Life. This tells us something about the Sephardim philosophy of life – and death. The picture shows a detail of a partly submerged gravestone in which we see a shepherdess with her cattle. A dynamic, beautifully sculpted relief that does credit to the cemetery’s name.

Since the beginning of the 17th century the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam have buried their dead at Beth Haim. For somebody who is not familiar with the Jewish era, it must be unsettling to notice an indication Anno Mundi 5490 on a gravestone, as seen in the picture below. It questions our sense of time.

Beth Haim Cemetery, Anno Mundi 5490, Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, Netherlands 1995

It plunges us in a pensive mood in which we are first catapulted thousands of years into the future, then – after proper calculations – hundreds of years back into the past (1730 AD), while contemplating death in the House of Life, between wonderful gravestones, submerged in water, slowly sinking into the earth.

Photo of the week: Beth Haim Cemetery, Detail of grave, Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, Netherlands 1995

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