Turkey Jews fear TV show may boost anti-Semitism

Turkey Jews fear TV show

After a Turkish television show this week harshly portrayed IDF soldiers on a state-sponsored channel, the Jewish community in Istanbul is understandably worried about rising tensions between Israel and Turkey. Beniz Saporta, a member of the community board under the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey, saw the debut of Ayrilik (Farewell), and was left frustrated with the depiction of the soldiers. "I didn't feel good after seeing it," Saporta said. "I don't believe anyone can behave this way. There were some scenes where people were doing horrible things." The first episode of the series about a Palestinian family living in the West Bank appeared Tuesday evening on prime time on the state-controlled station TRT 1, and showed IDF soldiers killing a baby and a young girl, and lining up Palestinians to be shot by a firing squad. Saporta said Ayrilik depicted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict differently than how some of the Jews of Istanbul view it. "It was being portrayed as a war of religion," she said. "But it's a war over land. It's a political problem." Saporta said she was wary of a potentially dangerous future for Turkey's Jews. "This is bothering us, because we think it may increase anti-Semitism," Saporta said, although she did not know of any recent anti-Semitic occurrences stemming from the events of the past week. Ayrilik producer Selcuk Cobanoglu told Israel Radio on Thursday that the soldiers depicted in the drama "are not Israeli soldiers," but it was clear to Saporta what was being presented. No pro-Israel rallies or educational programs are being planned by community members or the Rabbinate at this time, according to Saporta, although the Rabbinate was still formulating an organized response to the media on Thursday. The Israeli Embassy in Ankara sounded cautious, with one representative saying, "The situation is problematic, but we don't want to blow it out of proportion." A representative from the Jewish Agency said that its emissary in Istanbul would not be allowed to speak on the topic of Jews in Istanbul because the matter was "very delicate." According to the Chief Rabbinate of Turkey's Web site, there are around 26,000 Jews in Turkey. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with Sephardim making up 96 percent of the community. There are about 100 Karaites, an independent group that does not accept the authority of Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva, known as the hahambasi. There are currently 19 synagogues in Turkey, with Neve Shalom in Istanbul's Galata district being the largest.