Jewish heritage is evident in Curaçao, home of the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western hemisphere. Founded in 1651, Sephardic Congregation Mikve Israel is now called Mikve Israel-Emanuel after a 1964 merger.
The beautifully constructed, two-story, yellow-colored building is particularly inviting. Step inside and onto a soft white-sand floor. Our tour guide said the sand symbolizes the 40 years the Jewish people spent wandering in the Sinai Desert after they fled from Egypt. Other people say the tradition dates from the Inquisition, when synagogues in Spain and Portugal were covered with sand to muffle the footsteps of Jews worshipping in secret.
If you visit the island, see the Jewish Cultural Historical Museum. In the courtyard are replicas of some of the beautiful headstones from the cemetery, Beit Haim Blenheim, which includes as many as 5,500 burials. The Jewish Quarter of "Scharloo" may also be of interest.
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