³⁸ Winter in Italy, Jewish Cemetery of F
It was raining grey when we arrived to the gates. Five rings for the warden to open them, and I wonder if she’s a Jewess, the way she moves and let’s us in, and points out the garden, to the other side.
Raining isn’t it.
I watch her, wondering. Is it a crooked nose, deep eyes, an angel-kissed brow that I’m looking for ? Which signs can I find ? I pick up a canary kippah, observing her retreat. We re-enter the slight drizzle, just enough to moisten the tombs and one’s face.
We are alone, making the rounds, and I notice how the cemetery is neatly walled in, just like a city (or a ghetto) and how the tombs are clustered into small patches, separated by vast expanses of grass, tree and shrub (forgotten families, the one famous writer, stone-adorned tombs). This strikes me as odd ; the tomb dates do not indicate a disparity that could be held accountable for this layout. My first impression was one of strangeness. This silence could not be understood otherwise than as a reminder that a community had once thrived here, and that it had been maimed, deported. While some had found refuge, many had died, anonymous and forgotten - somewhere else. This elsewhere pervaded the moist grass and our stroll : space for the absentees.
I started to notice that each cluster had features that were distinct from the others. They appeared to me as neighbourhoods : some encrusted in the walls, others dispersed in the bushes or along trees. This is when my perception must have changed: the cemetery started to appear as the fulfilment of a plan — just like a city’s — that conceived of various areas suited for the needs of its residents.
The planning was ambitious, and lots of the empty space was to be filled. I understood that the Jews of F would live long enough for their dead to saturate the garden.
Even if it was to take ten thousand years.