Local synagogue in Edirne, Turkey.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A provincial governor, whose anger at Israel led him to call for turning a synagogue into a museum, has apologized to the country’s chief rabbi – though he claimed he was misunderstood.
Dursun Sahin, governor of the northwestern Edirne province, offered an “apology” that expressed “profound sadness” that his words were “distorted,” the office of Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva said in a statement on Monday, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported on Tuesday.
Sahin told reporters on Friday that because of Israeli actions in al-Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, he ordered the historic Buyuk Synagogue, built in 1907, to be turned into a museum.
“When those bandits blow winds of war inside al-Aksa and slay Muslims, we build in their synagogues,” Sahin said, according to Hurriyet.
“I say this with a huge hatred inside me,” Sahin was quoted as saying. “We clean their graveyards, send their projects to boards. The synagogue here will be registered only as a museum, and there will be no exhibition inside it.”
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc also weighed in on Monday, saying that the governor made a “mistake” and assured that the synagogue’s status would not be changed, according to the report.
“The governor made a mistake. I respect and appreciate him. He acted emotionally.
We condemn the atrocities against the Aksa Mosque, but we cannot look at the Jews here with an evil eye,” he said.
A top Turkish official had previously rejected the governor’s plan on Saturday.
“All decisions regarding the functions of the buildings owned by the General Directorate of Foundations are taken by the directorate,” GDF director-general Adnan Ertem told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency. “Our intentions are to keep that building as a house of worship to serve all visitors,” he said.
Ertem added that the building has been undergoing restoration since 2010 at a cost of some $1.7 million and the work is almost finished.