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May 25, 2016 / 17 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Turkish Jewry’

Turkish Foreign Minister Targets Jews, Warns of ‘Treason’

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Red flags are going up for Jews in Turkey again for the second time in less than a week.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took aim at Turkish Jewry Sunday  in a thinly-disguised reference to the “Jewish lobby” on Sunday during a speech to local lawmakers, linking such a “lobby” to part of a “parallel structure” (U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen’s supporters) accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being in cahoots with Israeli Mossad intelligence agents.

On January 31, Erdogan had told a meeting of business leaders in Istanbul, “The sincere people backing this parallel structure should see this structure is cooperating with… Shame on them if they still cannot see that this structure is cooperating with the Mossad.” (Erdogan has accused Gulen’s followers of illegal wiretapping and a coup attempt that began with a corruption probe in December 2013. Four former ministers and their sons were investigated at the time; all were later acquitted on all charges.)

“I announce it from here: We have not and will not succumb to the Jewish lobby, the Armenian lobby or the Turkish-Greek minority’s lobbies,” Davutoglu said in his own speech on Feb. 8, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported. Speaking at a provincial congress of the ruling Justice and Development party’s (AKP) in Istanbul, Davutoglu added, “I call out to the parallel lobby and send them a message: We will stand before you with dignity no matter where you are; you will be despicable for the treason you have done to this nation.”

It’s not the first time in the past week that local Jews have been targeted by the current Turkish government.

On Feb. 6, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a snide comment about Jewish prayers while accepting an award from the Roma community in Bursa. As he started to condemn racism, Islamophobia and discrimination, Erdogan suddenly aimed at Judaism itself, specifically the Jewish morning blessings.

“I am addressing to those who talk about women’s rights. Why don’t you raise your voice against the Jews who thank G-d in their prayers that they were not created as women? Was there any other understanding, a logic as demeaning for women as this one?” he said.

The remark is a deliberate misinterpretation of one of the morning blessings recited by Jewish men and women each day, albeit with different versions for each. Jewish men do indeed thank God in one of the numerous blessings they recite in the morning that they were not created as women. The women’s version offers praise to God for being created as women (the literal translation of the prayer is, “as He desires”, in recognition of women’s different roles and responsibilities in Jewish life.)

Istanbul’s largest and most prominent synagogue, Neve Shalom, has become a virtual fortress under constant protection by Turkish security personnel. One must surrender one’s passport in order to enter the magnificent house of worship that once was filled to capacity in a former bustling Jewish neighborhood.

The synagogue was attacked several times by radical Islamic terrorists, leaving wounded, death and destruction in their wake. Turkish security is particularly selective about who is allowed to enter the synagogue; every person who attempts to do so is carefully scrutinized and required to walk through a metal detector prior to entry. The entrance itself is subtly hidden towards the back of the building, which must be accessed through a nondescript side gate.

Today the area around the synagogue is a shopping district and the lovely building with its stained glass windows and wooden seats polished to a sheen echoes with the memories of past festivities, empty but for the handful of Jews who dare to enter for prayers on High Holy Days and other important Jewish holidays.

Observant Jews who have remained in Turkey maintain a very low profile. Kosher food is not to be had in any general supermarket or local grocery store; one needs to know where to go in order to find it. There do not appear to be any local kosher supervision agencies — at least no symbols of any on foods available in public stores. Other members of the Jewish community are the descendants of those who arrived as refugees from Spain in 1492, fleeing the Inquisition, business people, and others who as tourists fell in love and married locals.

Hana Levi Julian

Are Turkey’s Jews in Trouble?

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Are the Jews of Turkey – Israel’s former ally in the region — in danger?

On Friday, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed alarm at the increasingly hostile environment towards Israel in Turkey that has extended itself towards that country’s Jews.

The ADL called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reject the targeting of Turkish Jews over Israel’s counter terrorist Operation Protective Edge — launched to silence the rocket fire aimed by Hamas at Israeli civilians – and to publicly assert that the Jewish community has the full support and protection of the state.

Instead, Erdogan issued an additional condemnation of Israel the next day, telling supporters in a speech at the Black Sea resort city of Ordu, “[Israelis] have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.” According to the Reuters news service, the Turkish leader repeatedly likened Israel to the Nazi murderers over the Jewish State’s current counter terrorist Operation Protective Edge against the Hamas rulers of Gaza.

But Erdogan was apparently persuaded by senior members of his Islamic AKP party to lower the heat against the Jews in his own country, if only a trifle. “I don’t approve of any [bad} attitude towards our Jewish citizens in Turkey despite all this. Why? They are the citizens of this country,” he said.

Approximately 17,000 Jews remain in the country. But the rising anti-Semitism combined with increasing difficulty for young Jews in finding a spouse is prompting families to emigrate at a much faster rate than they have in past years. Istanbul’s Sephardic synagogue, the magnificent Neve Shalom, has been attacked by Palestinian Arab terrorists three times since 1986 — most recently in 2003.

Neve Shalom Synagogue of Istanbul, June 2013.

Neve Shalom Synagogue of Istanbul, June 2013.

As recently as June 2013, in order to enter the building, a visitor had find the small nonedescript entrance alley off to the side, then surrender one’s passport, walk through a metal detector and undergo a search carried out by grim Turkish security personnel. Some visitors were not allowed in anyway, depending upon the whim of the security guards.

APC

Street view of Neve Shalom synagogue, Istanbul, June 2013.

Street view of Neve Shalom synagogue, Istanbul, June 2013.

The Sephardic Jewish Center was also well hidden, away on a side street in the center of Istanbul in a posh neighborhood filled with upscale restaurants. One would not know it was there, unless you knew what to look for. Even then, the entrance is hidden.

To find it, one enters a building and is greeting immediately by a friendly security man at the door who asks your business. An upscale shop is located on the ground floor, across the from desk.

If you know what to ask, and where you are going, you are passed through to the location of a small elevator, well protected with metal grating and heavy steel bars and locks. Several other security measures later, all with heavy reinforcements, and eventually one emerges into the offices of the Jewish news weekly, the Salom Gazette, housed in the Sephardic Jewish Center, the nerve center of Turkish Jewry. The Istanbul-based Center, which is struggling for resources — and survival — at this point, produces the only Ladino newspaper in the world. It is probably the only spot in the country where Jews can find materials in Hebrew, Ladino, and other languages about Israel and Judaism.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/are-turkeys-jews-in-trouble/2014/07/20/

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