Jerusalemites say they remain unmoved by restoration of diplomatic ties with Turkey

"It’s too dangerous there, and they don’t like us," says one Israeli.

A Turkish flag flutters atop the Turkish embassy as an Israeli flag is seen nearby, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 26, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Turkish flag flutters atop the Turkish embassy as an Israeli flag is seen nearby, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 26, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The restoration of diplomatic ties with Turkey held little sway over a cross-section of Jerusalem residents, who uniformly said they will not visit a country that likely remains hostile to Israelis, and dangerous in general.
Compounding concerns, following Tuesday’s deadly attack at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office re-issued a travel warning calling on Israelis to avoid visiting the country all together.
In March, following a blast in Istanbul that killed three Israelis, the bureau warned that there is a continuing threat against Israel and Jewish targets there.
Citing the deadly 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla confrontation and Tuesday’s airport bombings, Ami Azoulay, a 50-year-old market owner, said improved government relations will not change perceived facts on the ground.
“I will never go there because I don’t trust them,” said Azoulay, in downtown Jerusalem. “What happened between a week ago and now? Just because the big people changed their minds doesn’t mean the little people changed theirs.”
“It’s a question of safety,” he continued. “It’s not even safe in their airport.”
Moreover, Azoulay said he believes the Muslim country is overwhelmingly anti-Semitic.
“Also, if I go in the street there just to visit, am I going to have to hide that I’m Jewish?” he asked. “You want to travel to countries and spend your money where they love you. It’s not that I’m afraid, I’m uncomfortable spending my money there.”
Indeed, Israeli tourism to Turkey which reached 500,000 in peak seasons in past years, has now dwindled to a trickle of a few tens of thousands, mostly from the Arab sector.
Lavi Ben, a 30-year-old restaurant manager, also said he would not travel to Turkey in the near future, adding that he is troubled by the Israeli government compensating Turkey for the deaths on the flotilla, which he defined as self-defense.
“Even though the countries are trying to make peace, there are deeper issues, and it’s going to take some time until I feel more comfortable,” he said. “I think many Israelis don’t think the money should have been paid after what happened, and I think the Turkish people think they deserve it.”
While Ben said he did not believe Turks are generally anti-Semitic, he contended that despite the political about-face, the government is another matter.
“I’m still not so sure the government likes us so much,” he said. “So I will go to many, many, many other places before Turkey.”
David, a 50-year-old electronics store owner, who requested his last name not be published, said that while he enjoys visiting Turkey, he is concerned over terrorist activity there.
“I have been to Turkey many times before with my family, and we love to take our vacations there, but we see the airport bombing and other attacks and think it’s dangerous,” he said. “Also, Turkey’s involvement with Daesh [ISIS] is a big problem.”
While David noted that he is apathetic to the recent diplomatic developments, he said he would not feel safe traveling there.
“We are afraid to go there now,” he said. “The situation is no good. Maybe after six months or a year we will go, if things are quiet.”
Anat Horowitz also said she once traveled to the country regularly with her family, but after the flotilla debacle decided it was no longer safe for Jews.
“It was a lovely place to go to, but of course we stopped going [after 2010],” she said. “It’s not safe now, and if you add the fact that you are a Jew, it doesn’t make it any better. So no, this agreement doesn’t make me feel any safer,” she said.
Horowitz added that she is deeply disappointed that the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge were not returned as part of the deal.
“That’s very upsetting,” she said. “It’s outrageous and it makes me angry.”
While manning a cosmetics counter on Jaffa Road, Hodaya Malka, 26, said she recently debated the issue with a Turkish friend who stayed with her in Jerusalem.
“I was in Bodrum seven years ago and it was amazing, and she asked me the other day why I’m not going back, and I told her that I’m afraid of all the terror attacks,” she said. “And then that’s exactly what happened yesterday at the airport.”
Malka also cited the flotilla incident as a factor in her decision not to return.
“All these things together make you not want to be in a place where they don’t want you,” she said. “Also, what makes it so complicated is that it’s not just Jews against Muslims there, it’s Muslims against Muslims. So yeah, I don’t think I’ll go visit there soon,” she concluded.
Daniel, a middle-aged cellphone repair technician, said the diplomatic gesture was little more than a shallow effort to buttress better economic ties.
“I think it’s a sort of negotiation to lessen the pressure on the governments working together,” he said. “But I’m not feeling safer going there and I don’t think I will go there soon, especially after what happened [at Ataturk Airport].
Meanwhile, Yaakov Asor, 55, who visited the country in the past, said restored diplomatic ties do not change two important factors for him.
“It’s too dangerous, and they don’t like us,” he said.“We need more time to see how things go.
If things go well in one or two years, maybe I’ll go back.”
Still, there are some who are more optimistic.
“I predict that tens of thousands of Israelis will travel to Turkey this summer,” Holiday Lines commercial partnerships manager Ilan Shalev told Globes this week after the deal was signed, “and a peak will be reached for the High Holy Days, with 180,000 Israeli tourists traveling to destinations in Turkey.”
Shalev even anticipates “a precipitous drop in prices that will make Antalya an extremely relevant option for Israelis.”
Aviation Links chief marketing officer Nir Mazor cites the enormous supply in Turkey: “You can vacation in excellent hotels for $500-$1,000. In comparison with a few years back, the luxury hotels at the vacation sites are more expensive.
The prices in centers in Antalya and Kemer have remained about the same, and there is no reason for them to fall.”
Like Shalev, Mazor also concluded on a fairly optimistic note, saying that he was “sure that the Turks will be glad to get us back, but they won’t lower their prices, certainly not in the peak season.”