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July 22, 2014 / 24 Tammuz, 5774
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Turkish Jews Fleeing

Turkey, long a vacation destination for Israelis, is slowly being emptied of its Turkish Jews.
Jews are fleeing Turkey in record numbers

Jews are fleeing Turkey in record numbers
Photo Credit: Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Turkey has long been a vacation destination for Israelis.  But with increasing tension between the current Turkish government and Israel, and what some describe as a level of anti-Semitism condoned by the highest levels of the current government, the tiny population of Jews who live in Turkey is rapidly dwindling.

According to figures from 2013, there are approximately 17,400 Jews in Turkey, a mere .02 percent of the population. The Jewish Virtual Library counts 23 active Turkish synagogues, of which 16 are in Istanbul.

Even tourism has been affected.

Tourism from Israel to, for example, the Mediterranean city of Antalya is back up to approximately 50,000 this past summer, which was down as low as 10,000 following the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine Turks died while attempting to violate the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Although the Turks on the boat brutally attacked the Israeli soldiers before any Israelis resorted to violence, Turkey insisted that Israel apologize and financially compensate the families of those who died.

The Mavi Marmara episode was just one in a string of incidents in which previously warm relations between the two westernized Middle Eastern countries became brusque.

An earler incident occurred during the Davos Conference of 2009.  Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raised his voice at the placid, peaceful Israeli President Shimon Peres, accusing him (Israel) of murdering children on the beach and of Israeli prime ministers having told him “we feel happy when we go into Palestine with our tanks and weapons.”  Erdogan refused to yield the floor despite far extending the bounds of time and courtesy.

And let’s not forget last February, when Erdoğan allegedly called Zionism a “crime against humanity.”

And finally, the recent alleged disclosure of the identity of ten Iranians who had been spying on Iran for the Israeli intelligence service, followed by the fury that the Turkish intelligence chief should be blamed for this leak has brought what had been a lot of background noise to a crescendo.

And now, according to the head of the Turkish community in Israel, Nesim Güveniş, the Jews of Turkey are getting out.

“Anti-Semitism, triggered by harsh statements from the Turkish government, has led to the migration of hundreds of Jewish youngsters from Turkey to the U.S. or Europe,” Güveniş told Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

With only a smattering over 17,000 Jews still living in Turkey, it won’t be long before the only Jews left are the few Israelis vacationers.  Until something ominous interrupts that pastime as well.

 

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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11 Responses to “Turkish Jews Fleeing”

  1. 'Tamer TroubleindaHouse says:

    hadi yallah, back to warsaw and to spain! Adio Querida!
    After 600 years of saving your ass, time to grow up!

  2. Nice guy. Now you know why you are not welcome to join the EU.

  3. Larry H. Gentry says:

    I can not understand antisemitism still being so alive in our world. Some day (soon I hope) God will straighten all this anger and hatred out. How sad that it is as it is.

  4. Larry, unfortunately I think antisemitism will be alive for a long time. I agree this is sad but the saddest is Jews hating Jews. That I have a hard time to deal with and i am a roman catholic.

  5. I am Jew from Chechnya, I was born there. As soon Jewish leaves, you will have the same trouble as all your brothers. You have to be happy if Jewish people leave among you. See what is going on Chechnya, Dagestan and an others countries. Kurd people will show proudest. You can talk now with the. 30 mil Kurdish people under your occupation.

  6. Note 've to see a Jewish perspective of world news

  7. Nice to see is what I typed. Spell check is getting aggressive

  8. Basha Kline says:

    Why do we do it, return to countries who truly do not want Jews in their midst – Turkey, Germany most of Europe and no matter how much is contributed to one's imaginary "homeland" resentment and anger rears its ugly head time and again – Still the smell of evil hangs about in our nostrils from the geman attrocities and again we poke our heads in the sand by living there, even choosing to ignore cartoons, and ridicule over and over – We have our true homeland and even though we were told to go there! we went home and still are being told to leave – This time we should truly mean never again!

  9. All jews are welcome to Greece

  10. Come Here in Greece

    You are welcome to my Country
    I m Greek Jew

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