Abandoned Jewish Cemetery in Belize

My cousin who lives in South Korea sent me a link about someone who came across an abandoned Jewish cemetery deep in the jungle in Belize. Truly there are few physical boundaries today.

The pictures are not very clear, but the woman who wrote the post, Megan Wood, was traveling in Belize and came across an abandoned cemetery which had broken gravestones on the ground. I can’t see it myself, but she says in real life it was clear the image engraved on the gravestone was that of a Star of David.

Broken gravestone in the jungle of Belize (from meganlwood.com)

Belize never had a major Jewish community, although some refugees from Sint Eustatius were believed to have settled there after their community was destroyed by the British military which took over that island in 1781. Jamaican Jewish traders were also know to trade at the Belize port.

The IAJGS International Jewish Cemetery Project (IJCP) lists two mentions of burial locations of Jews in Belize, adding up to only 5 graves, but certainly not this cemetery in the middle of nowhere.

The Jewish Online Worldwide Burial Register (JOWBR) lists 4 out of the 5 graves mentioned in the IJCP, but doesn’t list the names on the graves.

Who were these Jews and what were they doing far into the jungle of Belize?

4 comments

  1. Jason M. Hood says:

    This could possibly be the cemetery in Bolton Bank. There is literally NOTHING in Bolton Bank. The entire area is up for sale now and, though only a few kilometers from Belize City, if you were on foot, you are “deep” in the jungle. The link to the original article is no longer working so I can’t read all of the details. But, if Bolton Bank is sold to developers for a luxury resort (which is what is currently in works) the Jewish cemetery will likely disappear with the development. It’s an unfortunate fact that Belize has very little concern for preserving sites like this. They put very little effort into preserving the Mayan ruins which are responsible for so much of their tourism revenue. They’re definitely not going to step up to preserve a small Jewish burial ground.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s unclear from the story how old these graves really are, but don’t forget that many or most of the white people who moved to the new world from Spain were conversos or secret Jews. Perhaps this cemetery is a secret place where secret Jews buried their dead. Currently there is a big movement in Latin America and even in New Mexico toward researching and returning to Jewish roots. Very interesting. I’d love to hear more.

  3. Philip says:

    Fascinating article from the JTA Archives. This one provides additional information on this attempt to build a refugee colony in then British Honduras (now Belize):

    http://archive.jta.org/article/1940/09/29/2852210/british-honduras-refugee-project-awaits-arrival-of-80-families

    That settlement was built in the Cayo district, however, and these graves seem to have been found in the Belize district to the East. The graves also seem older than would be found from a settlement started in 1940, but who knows.

    This article online also mentions two German Jewish doctors who fled to British Honduras in the 1930s, but were deported by the British when the war broke out because they were German:

    http://www.belizefirst.com/soldier.html

    The National Archives in Great Britain references collections that mention Jewish refugees in British Honduras here:

    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/refugees-minorities.htm

    as does this page on the web site of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, referencing also British archives:

    http://www2.mfa.gr/www.mfa.gr/Articles/en-US/14_02_06_NXEN17.htm

    There are three collections titled:

    Jewish refugees from Europe: possibility of settling in British Honduras

    for 1938,1939 and 1940…

    Are there any records of this refugee settlement after 1940?

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