600-year-old Jewish cemetery in Turkey vandalized, graves destroyed

Hasköy is one of the oldest districts where Jews used to live and one of the older still-used Jewish cemeteries is located there.

 36 graves in the Jewish Hasköy Cemetery in Istanbul Turkey were vandalized and destroyed Thursday night, July 14, 2022  (photo credit: @tyahuditoplumu VIA TWITTER)
36 graves in the Jewish Hasköy Cemetery in Istanbul Turkey were vandalized and destroyed Thursday night, July 14, 2022
(photo credit: @tyahuditoplumu VIA TWITTER)

A total of 36 tombstones were destroyed in the Jewish Hasköy Cemetery in Istanbul Turkey in an act of vandalization on Thursday night, according to a tweet by an official Jewish community account.

According to the report, the incident took place on Thursday at midnight, and the relevant authorities have been informed.

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman on behalf of Turkey's President has condemned the vandalism in the Jewish cemetery, calling it a "heinous attack."

"We will never allow those who attack sacred values to try and sow seeds of strife and enmity in our society," Kalin added.

  36 graves in the Jewish Hasköy Cemetery in Istanbul Turkey were vandalized and destroyed Thursday night, July 14, 2022  (credit: @tyahuditoplumu VIA TWITTER) 36 graves in the Jewish Hasköy Cemetery in Istanbul Turkey were vandalized and destroyed Thursday night, July 14, 2022 (credit: @tyahuditoplumu VIA TWITTER)

The Ashkenazi rabbi of Turkey, Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that he was sure that "the Jewish community in Turkey, headed by Chief Rabbi Hakham Bashi, Rabbi Ishak Haleva, together with the Turkish authorities, will deal with the issue in the best way, and ensure that such cases do not happen again."

Chitrik explained that the cemetery in question is 600 years old and is located in the center of Istanbul, with a main highway now cutting through and above it. 

According to the Turkish Jewish community's official website, Hasköy is one of the oldest districts where Jews used to live and one of the older still-used Jewish cemeteries is located there. Over the many centuries that the Hasköy Cemetery has been in use, the size of the burial grounds has been significantly reduced, in part due to earthquakes and in part due to the destructive intrusions of private people and official authorities.

The Jewish community organization explained on its website that through cooperating with the local police, they have been able to organize "constant police patrol further enabling the maintaining of a watchman day and night.

"Presently the local population is not able to pass through the cemetery and use it as a shortcut; thanks to the presence of watchdogs, people cannot dig the earth to seek treasures and intruding into the cemetery for different reasons has decreased."

Yet this is probably not enough, the statement on the website adds, saying that "despite all these measures our watchman suffers constant verbal abuse from locals and our dogs are continuously attacked with the intent to mutilate or kill."