Photo Credit: Hana Levi Julian
Istanbul's largest synagogue is nearly hidden on a narrow street, but Neve Shalom is quite large inside.

Istanbul’s famed Neve Shalom Grand Synagogue once again became a target on Thursday night, as Turkish protesters gathered to hurl rocks at the house of worship, and kick the doors.

Due to the massive security measures that were put in place after decades of terrorist attacks on the beautiful synagogue, the rioters were unable to do more.

The Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul
The Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul
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More troubling is the legal government sponsorship that appeared to be behind the protest, which was allegedly organized by the Turkish Nationalist Party, a member of the AK faction supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The radical Islamic ‘Alperen Hearths’ youth group led the demonstration, reading a statement outside the synagogue that said Israel is a “terror state” seeking to block freedom of worship for Muslims. “If you prevent our freedom of worship there then we will prevent your freedom of worship here,” the group’s local chairman, Kursat Mican, read from the statement.

In response, the country’s Foundation of the Turkish Chief Rabbinate, which officially deals with issues regarding the dwindling Jewish community, issued a statement of its own.

“We condemn the provocative action outside the Neve Salom synagogue tonight. We expect that the relevant authorities will take the necessary measures.”

It’s not clear whether the Turkish security officials who are always present at the synagogue remained on duty during the protest, nor what their response was to the stoning.

The government-sanctioned violence against Istanbul’s largest synagogue came either during or just after a phone call by Erdogan to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin to discuss the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount – a call arranged at Erdogan’s request.

Rivlin asked Erdogan to condemn last week’s terrorist attack on the Temple Mount that left two Israeli Druze police officers dead and several others wounded. Erdogan has yet to condemned the murders though he’s the first to decry PA Arab deaths regardless of cause.

Turkish authorities have long deployed a metal detector and carry out a comprehensive security check, including a demand for the surrender of passport or identification card from anyone who wishes to visit Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue.

The Neve Shalom synagogue was first bombed 1986 by attackers from the Palestinian Authority’s Abu Nidal terrorist organization, killing 22 Jewish worshipers.

A second terror attack in 1992 by attackers linked to the Sunni “Turkish Hizballah” terrorist organization, caused damage but no physical injuries to anyone.

Plaque on the wall of the lobby at Istanbul's Neve Shalom Grand Synagogue
Plaque on the wall of the lobby at Istanbul’s Neve Shalom Grand Synagogue

A third, devastating suicide car bombing on November 15, 2003 by Al Qaeda operatives claimed the lives of 24 people and wounded more than 300 others, many of them Muslim Turks who were passing by the building. That attack included a simultaneous suicide car bombing at a second synagogue in the city – the Beth Israel synagogue in the Sisli district – which was also badly damaged.

Inside the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul
Inside the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul

The coverage of this week’s events in Turkey’s English-language edition of the Daily Sabah on Friday – considered a mouthpiece for the Ankara government — makes it super clear the Turkish leadership is aiding and abetting Palestinian Authority and Muslim Brotherhood incitement against Israel.

The headlines in the Daily Sabah on Friday included:
-Israel limits entry to prayers at Jerusalem’s Old City
-Israel bars Muslim men under 50 from Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Old City
– Turkey concerned over attempts to disrupt Al Aqsa status quo
– Palestinians to urge int’l community to end violations at Al Aqsa”
– Turkey urges world to speak up against Al Aqsa issue

By comparison, the sole coverage of events in Israel to be found on Turkey’s independent English-language Hurriyet Daily News, was a piece on Wednesday’s concert by the rock band “Radiohead” in defiance of extremely heavy pressure not to perform by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions campaign.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.