Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, chair of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States and Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Istanbul, shared with i24TV viewers on Wednesday what he saw upon his arrival in Antakya (Antioch) on Monday to help the city’s Turkish Jewish community to search for survivors.
The rabbi’s pain and shock were clearly visible as he spoke.
“Members of the Antakya Jewish community are unaccounted for. We cannot confirm anything, but we hope and pray they come out of the rubble in health,” he said. “Though, of course, as time passes it becomes more difficult.
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“But we still don’t have any confirmation about their situation,” he noted. “We still pray and we’re still worried that they come out well and alive.”
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The rabbi said he went to Antakya as part of a team to rescue the Turkish Jewish community and bring them to safety, organized by the Turkish Jewish community and headed by the Chief Rabbi of Turkey and President of the Jewish community.
The Jewish community of Antakya is an ancient community of 2,500 years, the rabbi noted.
“The city is under total destruction. There’s no electricity, fuel, heating. Many, many buildings have collapsed in the city, maybe close to 60 percent in my estimation and the synagogue itself has also been damaged,” the rabbi said.
“We did manage to get in and get out the Torah scrolls and bring them to safety, to a place where they won’t be damaged. The synagogue is still standing but the walls are totally cracked in some places,” he noted.
Saving ancient Torah scrolls from the earthquake damaged synagogue of Antakya – home for a Jewish community for 2500 years… #antakyadeprem pic.twitter.com/ZsHzVKdHWZ
— Rabbi Mendy Chitrik (@mchitrik) February 7, 2023
“The city is quite dangerous to stay in. There is no electricity, as I said, no fuel, no heating, there’s snow and rain going on while we are there.
“There are rescue teams trying to get people out from under the rubble. The situation is not very good.
“Prayers are really, really welcome, and if you can – if anybody can — send donations, medicine, or anything an help out the rescuer teams and people; it would really be a great thing,” he said.
Rabbi Chitrik added that the members of the Jewish community in Antakya have left the city.
“They’re not there anymore,” he said. “Most people have left. Whatever is left in the city will have to be rebuilt and it will take time. It’s a very sad situation – so many casualties, so much destruction,” he lamented.
“We are hoping for miracles, the more miracles the better.”