Israel’s National Security Council Counter-Terrorism Bureau (NSCCTB) upgraded its travel warning for Turkey on Monday to that of a “high concrete threat.”
But the threat is not just terrorism, although that is where the current danger lies. Ultimately, there is a greater existential threat beneath.
The counter-terrorism bureau warned Israelis not to travel to the country, and told those who are already there to leave as soon as possible.
“The deadly 19 March 2016 attack in Istanbul, in which a group of Israeli tourists was hit, underscores the threat by Da’esh (ISIS) against tourist targets throughout Turkey and proves high capabilities of carrying out further attacks.
“Terrorist infrastructures in Turkey continue to advance additional attacks against tourist targets – including Israeli tourists – throughout the country,” the warning continued.
Although Da’esh has carried out most of the attacks and the outlawed PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party terror group has carried out the rest, for Israelis, the Hamas terrorist organization presents an equal threat. The international Hamas headquarters is located in Istanbul, and yet no mention has been made of its existence despite its ongoing pledge to annihilate Israel and her Jewish citizens. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party welcomed Hamas to the country; Erdogan is a passionate supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood which gave birth to Hamas.
This fact stands in stark contrast to Erdogan’s recent vows to “fight terrorist together with Israel,” leaving one to wonder where he really stands.
“In the wake of an NSCCTB assessment of the situation, it has been decided to upgrade the existing travel warning vis-à-vis Turkey from a basic concrete threat to a high concrete threat, and to reiterate our recommendation to the public to avoid visiting the country and – for Israelis currently in Turkey – to leave as soon as possible.”
There are many Israelis who live in Turkey. A large number are intermarried with Turkish citizens. Some are there because they simply love the beauty of the country, its music and its art. Others are there for reasons relating to their business or artistic concerns.
While it is possible to find a few imported kosher items here and there in Istanbul, one has to hunt very hard to track them down. There are no local kosher supervising agencies. The only exception is the hechsher provided by the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey on a few tourist-related items such as “Turkish Delight” candies.
For the kosher traveler, one can order La Casa packaged meals that are used by Turkish Airlines and under the hechsher of the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey. As it happens, La Casa is also a catering service and actually creates one of the best-quality meals in the industry. Jewish travelers rely on it when visiting Turkey — with the exception of one restaurant and a kosher butcher who stocks frozen foods, there are no other options.
JewishPress.com spoke exclusively with some Jews who live in the country during a recent visit to learn how Jews are faring in Turkey and to give them a voice, if possible.
Not one of the Turkish Jews with whom this news outlet spoke was willing to be identified and most were unwilling to meet in person. Of those who did agree to meet, the tension – nay, fear – was palpable. Even after assurances this reporter would not record the conversation, it took repeated promises that no names would be used before sources could relax enough to speak.
The following narrative is a mashup of the comments of several sources with whom this reporter spoke while in Turkey, in order to fulfill that promise of protecting their identities.Hana Levi Julian