Turkey is beginning to experience a rise in Jewish emigration, says a leading
figure among Turkish expatriates in Israel.
Nesim Güvenis, the deputy
chair of the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel, told the Hurriyet Daily News
that political tensions between the two countries and rising anti-Semitism have
contributed to an increase in the number of young people moving
Güvenis made aliya in the early 1980s, along with tens of
thousands of other Turkish Jews, primarily because of his children, he told the
“They didn’t want to go to university where leftists or other
groups were putting pressure on them to take sides at school,” he said.
rise in anti-Semitism related to national tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem
has led the current exodus, he said, declining to give exact
“Look at the environment in Turkey at the moment. We are
uncomfortable with being ‘othered’... I am more Turkish than many, but we
couldn’t make them believe it,” Güvenis told Hurriyet.
Earlier this year
the Neveh Shalom synagogue in Istanbul was revealed to be the target of an
al-Qaida bomb plot, and in 2003 27 people were killed when two truck bombs were
driven into Neveh Shalom and the Beit Israel synagogue.
The sexton of a
local synagogue, speaking with The Jerusalem Post in April, stated that the
community was strongly Zionist and that they believed themselves to be safe in
Turkey, saying that their “security is strong.”
Despite that assurance,
however, local Jewish leaders have frequently been reluctant to speak with the
Israeli press, seemingly due to their country’s strained relationship with
Despite tensions between the two countries, there have been some
efforts at the grassroots level to bridge the gap.
On Thursday Turkish
and Israeli academics participated in the opening of the “first-ever joint
Seminar in Turkey” according to Yad Vashem, one of the event’s
A joint initiative of the Aladdin Project, an NGO dedicated
to Jewish-Muslim understanding, Yad Vashem and International Holocaust
Remembrance Alliance, the program will bring together 20 academics at
Galatasaray University in Istanbul for a series of lectures.
“This is an
initial, although important step, given the significance of Turkish society in
the Muslim world. At Yad Vashem we are witnessing interest in the Holocaust that
traverses countries, religion and language. Our International School for
Holocaust Studies is prepared to meet this challenge,” Yad Vashem chairman Avner
Shalev said in a statement.
After the program, which will involve several
stages following the initial seminar, including an online course, the
participants will implement Holocaust study curriculums in their respective