President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog visited the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul this morning and met representatives of the Turkish Jewish community. During their visit, the President was welcomed into the sanctuary with the ceremonial blowing of shofars. The President paid tribute to the victims murdered in terror attacks at the synagogue in 1986 and 2003 and lit a candle in their memory. Later, the President joined the singing of a Psalm and recited a blessing over the Torah. President Herzog also recited Kaddish for his late mother, former First Lady Aura Herzog, who passed away in January.
The President and the First Lady were accompanied by the Hakham Bashi (Chief Rabbi) Ishak Haleva, the Turkish Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism Ahmet Misbah Demircan, and Turkish Jewish community co-presidents Erol Kohen and Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, Israeli Honorary Consul in İzmir Jak Eskinazi, and Chabad envoy Rabbi Mendy Chitrik. The Neve Shalom Synagogue is the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul.
President Isaac Herzog began his remarks by saying: “My brothers and sisters, members of the Jewish community, my wife Michal and I are delighted to meet you and bless you, as one does after seeing a friend after a long time, ‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life and sustained us, and allowed us to arrive at this time.’”
“At this special opportunity, I wish, together with you, to say a prayer for the peace of our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community of Ukraine, and to pray that the Holy One, Blessed be He, protect them and save them from trouble and distress.”
The President added: “Both my father and my grandfather recalled, during their historic visits, how Turkey opened its gates and its heart to the daughters and sons of the Jewish People, who found a firm foothold here. The Jews who were expelled from Spain and the older Jewish community in Turkey integrated into Turkish society and played an important role in writing the history of the Jewish People. The author of the Shulchan Aruch Rabbi Yosef Caro, Doña Gracia Nasi, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the scholar Moses Amon, who was the personal physician of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and a long line of rabbis, poets, sages, merchants, entrepreneurs, leaders—these all represent only a part of the history of the Jewish People here in this land.”
“My brothers and sisters, all Jews are connected by bonds of mutual responsibility and shared fate; and you, members of the Jewish community in Turkey, are a marvelous example of this. You are a symbol of mutual responsibility, of tradition, of community, in the face of all challenges. I know that the Jewish community here in Turkey, including in this synagogue, Neve Shalom, has experienced in the flesh painful terror attacks. Unfortunately, around the world—Jewish schools and synagogues, Jewish stores, and businesses remain in the haters’ crosshairs. You have my support, and I welcome the commitment of the authorities to the wellbeing and liberty of Turkish Jewry.”
President Herzog continued: “Yesterday I met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a historic visit in Ankara. We had a good, open, and honest conversation. In our meeting, I told him how important the Israel-Turkey relationship is to me. I told him that I believe that all of us, the children of all religions in the Middle East, can and must live in peace. I was pleased to hear from him that he agrees with me and that he too thinks that regional stability is very important and that we must strengthen what unites us, what unites all religions and peoples.
“We understood that both of us believe that in days like these, with the winds of war, and the terrible tragedy in Ukraine, we must walk down the path of the heritage of the Children of Abraham. A heritage of respect, tolerance, and friendship. Of a relentless struggle against racism, antisemitism, and hatred of the other.
“Our world needs more peace and fewer wars, tragedies, and battles. In the words of the prayer: ‘May He who makes peace in His heights make peace upon us and upon all Israel; and say, Amen.’”