In the midst of the arrest of Israeli citizens Natali and Mordy Oaknin in Istanbul, Turkey last Thursday, Israelis who live in or plan to visit Turkey have grown concerned about the situation there and many are canceling planned trips. Israelis who live in Turkey are reporting increased anxiety and fear.
Carolyn Bar-Shalom, who has been to Istanbul several times and is currently vacationing there, told Maariv that “my friends and I usually speak Hebrew during trips to Turkey (but) this time we would speak in Russian or Georgian, and we also try (not to) say that we are from Israel, because we are afraid to take unnecessary risks.”
“If I was in Turkey three weeks or six months ago, I would feel completely safe but now I feel less safe because I see that such a delusional case can happen to anyone,” said Etty Katsav, an Israeli living in Turkey.
Vered Shevach, an expert on Turkish culture and owner of a tourism company, shared some of the concerns mentioned. "Since the case began to make headlines, many Israelis have begun to be afraid to go to Turkey. There are those who hesitate to travel and some even cancel flights."
Natali and Mordy Oaknin were arrested for suspected espionage after the couple was caught taking a photo of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidential palace in Istanbul. Police initially recommended deporting them, though prosecutors decided to charge them on counts of “political or military espionage.” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the Oaknins are “two innocent citizens who accidentally ended up in a complex situation.”
Some Israelis do not, however, feel the situation will impact their current plans in the nation of over 84 million.
"The attitude here is amazing," says Nathaniel Buda, an Israeli who lives in Turkey. "You do not feel anything from this event, on the contrary, when you enter a store and the seller hears from you that you are from Israel - the attitude is better, they serve you their tea and food, and they are warm people."
Most Turkish residents are possibly unaware of the story entirely, Shevach told Maariv.
"The Turkish media does not report this at all. On Tuesday, there was a miserable single report on Turkish television that two Israelis had been captured who would probably release them in a few days, and the written media reported that the Israeli media was lying and telling distorted stories about the Israeli couple.
While the story remains high on the news agenda in Israel, tour guide Yiftach Maoz believes there won’t be a notable long-term impact. "When this affair is over, Israelis will return to Turkey as usual, because this is an exceptional case, and I believe Israelis will not give up Turkey so easily in the long run."
"It is important that Israelis know how to behave in Istanbul by following local advice," Shevach added. "We need to find out in advance where we are going, what the code of conduct is, especially when it comes to a foreign country, especially a Muslim country. We need to know in advance how to behave, how we are expected to dress in the streets, and in what places cannot be photographed.