ISTANBUL – President Isaac Herzog prayed with the congregants at the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul on Thursday, ending his state visit to Turkey.
The synagogue gave Herzog an aliyah, the honor of saying the blessings over the Torah, as well as leading the recitation of the Mourners’ Kaddish for those killed in multiple terrorist attacks on the synagogue in its history.
Turkish Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva thanked Herzog for “bringing ties of peace and friendship for Israel and Turkey. This visit is a historic event, leaving a deep impression.”
Herzog said the Jewish people “share joint responsibility and a shared destiny.”
The president said that he relayed a message of interfaith tolerance in his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: “Members of all the religions in the Middle East can and must live in peace. I was happy to hear that he agreed.
“In a time of winds of war and terrible tragedy, we have to go in the way of the legacy of Abraham, of tolerance and fighting antisemitism, racism and xenophobia,” he said. “Our world needs more peace and fewer wars and tragedies.”
Haleva spoke of the importance of Jewish unity, and prayed that Herzog will be protected by the legacy of his grandfather, former Israeli Ashkenazi chief rabbi Isaac Herzog.
The president and the chief rabbi recounted that Herzog’s father, then-president Chaim Herzog, visited the synagogue in 1992, in a ceremony marking 500 years since the expulsion of the Jews of Spain, after which many Jews found refuge in the Ottoman Empire.
Many Jewish sages and prominent historic figures were among those who fled or their descendants, Herzog noted.
The president also recounted that his grandfather visited Istanbul in the 1940s to try to help Jews escape Nazi Germany to Turkey.
Herzog and the congregation said the prayer for the State of Israel, as well as a prayer for the Turkish government.