October 29, 2018, Jerusalem Report Magazine
The slogan of the port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, written on municipal letterhead and garbage trucks
is: “Many stories, one heart.”
It was adopted when business-man-turned-mayor, Yiannis Boutaris, assumed office in 2011. He
envisioned turning Thessaloniki into an attractive Greek tourism destination at a time when tourists
romanticized Athens and the Greek islands. And if there’s any population for whom Thessoliniki holds
many stories, it’s the Jewish people, who are returning to “Salonika”—as eager tourists.
According to the Thessaloniki Tourism Organization, Israeli tourism increased over the last year by a
whopping 87 percent. Israelis are rated the fourth largest group of overnight visitors. The president of
the organization, Paraskevi Patoulidou, waxed poetic about the Jews’ return.
“Thessaloniki welcomes the visitors from Israel,” Patoulidoua wrote in a statement. “A breeze sweeps
over its commercial roads and its neoclassical mansions which reveals voices, sounds and memories
from the Ashkenazim and Sephardim people, from [illustrious Jewish-Greek residents] Modiano and
Dasot, Karasot, Sasson and many others who were born, walked, lived and loved Thessaloniki.”
Most of the Jewish stories, however, are ones of heartbreak and tragedy. Once a Jewish-Greek city with
a majority Jewish population that caused even the ports and shops to close on Shabbat, Thessaloniki lost
over 95 percent of its 50,000 Jews to Hitler’s genocidal madness. Next year, the new, state-of-the-art
Holocaust Memorial and Human Rights Educational Center will sanctify the city’s Jewish past.
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