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Aaron Belz • Belz (Hasidic dynasty) • Belz (disambiguation) • Belz Enterprises • Belz Great Synagogue • Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art • Belz Voivodship • Belz, Morbihan • Bełz Voivodeship • Christian Belz • Duchy of Belz • Joel Belz • Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music
|— City —|
|Named for||See in article|
|• Mayor||Ivan Kalysch|
|• Total||5.85 km2 (2.26 sq mi)|
|Elevation||200 m (700 ft)|
|• Density||410/km2 (1,100/sq mi)|
|Area code(s)||+380 3257|
Belz (Ukrainian: Белз, Polish: Bełz, Yiddish/Hebrew: בעלז translit. Belz), a small city in the Lviv Oblast (province) of Western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, is located between the Solokiya river (a tributary of the Bug River) and the Rzeczyca stream.
The current estimated population is 2408 (as of 2004), making it the smallest city in Ukraine.
There are a few versions of the origin of the name:
The name occurs only in two other places, both Celtic areas in antiquity:
Belz is situated in a fertile plain which tribes of Indo-European origin settled in ancient times: Celtic Lugii, next (2nd-5th century) German Goths, slavized Sarmatians (White Croats), and at last Slavic Lendians.
The town has existed since at least the 10th century, as one of the Burgs of Czerwień (Red Ruthenia) strongholds under Bohemian and Polish rule. In 981, Belz was incorporated into the Kievan Rus', except 1018–1030 when it belonged to Poland. In 1170 the town became a seat of the Duchy of Belz. In 1234 it was incorporated into the Duchy of Galicia–Volhynia, which would control Belz till 1340, when it came under Lithuanian rule. In 1366 it became a fief of Poland, since 1462 a permanent part of the Kingdom of Poland, until the First Partition of Poland in 1772. Then, it was incorporated into the Austrian Empire, later the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where it was a part of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria.
On October 5, 1377, the town was relocated on the Magdeburg law by Władysław Opolczyk, Duke of Opole, then the Governor of Red Ruthenia. A charter, dated November 10, 1509, once again granted Belz privileges under the Magdeburg rights.
With the collapse of Austria-Hungary following World War I in November 1918, Belz was included in the Western Ukrainian People's Republic, but came under Polish control in 1919, which was confirmed in the Poland–Ukrainian People's Republic agreement in April 1920. From 1919 to 1939 Belz belonged to the Lwów Voivodeship, Second Polish Republic.
From 1939 to 1944 Belz was occupied by Germany as a part of the General Government. Belz is situated on left, north waterside of the Solokiya river (affluent of the Bug river), which was German-Soviet border in 1939-1941.
After the war Belz reverted to Poland (the Lublin Voivodeship) until 1951 when, after a border readjustment (see: 1951 Polish-Soviet territorial exchange), it passed to the Soviet Union (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). Since 1991 it has been part of independent Ukraine.
The Karaites, believers in a literalist offshoot of Judaism (Karaite Judaism or Karaism, Hebrew: יהדות קראית), settled in Belz at the end of the 10th century, following the fall of the Khazar Khaganate.
The Ashkenazi Jewish community in Belz was established circa 14th century. In 1665, the Jews in Belz received equal rights and duties. The town became home to a Hasidic dynasty in the early 19th century. At that time, the Rav of Belz, Rabbi Shalom Rokeach (1779–1855), also known as the Sar Shalom, joined the Hasidic movement by studying with the Maggid of Lutzk, and was sent by him to Belz to establish the community and become the first Belzer Rebbe from 1817 to 1855.
A great Torah scholar, Rabbi Shalom Rokeach personally helped build the city's large and imposing synagogue, dedicated in 1843, which could seat 5,000 worshippers and had superb acoustics. When Rabbi Shalom died in 1855, his youngest son, Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach (1855–1894), became the next Rebbe. Belzer Hasidism grew in size during Rebbe Yehoshua's tenure and the tenure of his son and successor, Rabbi Yisschar Dov Rokeach (1894–1926). Rabbi Yissachar's son and successor, Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe to Israel in 1944, re-establishing the Hasidut first in Tel Aviv and then in Jerusalem.
At the beginning of World War I, Belz had 6100 inhabitants, including 3600 Jews, 1600 Ukrainians, and 900 Poles. During the German and Soviet invasion of Poland (September 1939), most of the Jews of Belz fled to the Soviet Union in Autumn 1939 (the German–Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Demarcation). However, by May 1942, there were over 1,540 local Jewish residents and refugees in Belz. On June 2, 1942, 1,000 Jews were deported to Hrubieszów and from there to the Sobibór extermination camp. Another 504 were brought to Hrubieszów in September of that year, after they were no longer needed to work on the farms in the area.
The Yiddish song “Beltz, Mayn Shtetele” is a moving evocation of a happy childhood spent in a shtetl. Originally this song was composed for a town which bears a similarly sounding name in Yiddish (belts), called Bălţi in Moldovan/Romanian, and is located in Bessarabia (presently the Moldova Republic). Later interpretations may have had Belz in mind, though.
Belz is also a very important place for Ukrainian Catholics and Polish Catholics as a place where the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (this icon was believed to have painted by St. Luke the Evangelist) had resided for several centuries until 1382, when Władysław Opolczyk, duke of Opole, took the icon home to his principality after ending his service as the Royal emissary for Halychyna for Louis I of Hungary.
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