Local Businessman: Jews Leaving Turkey Fearing for their Lives

Istanbul synagogue

Many members of Turkey’s Jewish community are leaving the country after increased threats and attacks, Mois Gabay, a prominent local Jewish businessman, has written in the Istanbul Jewish newspaper Şalom, the website Hurriyet Daily News reports.

“We face threats, attacks and harassment every day. Hope is fading, ” Gabay wrote.

On Nov. 21, Dursun Ali Şahin, governor of the northwestern province of Edirne, suggested that Jews be barred from the Büyük Sinagog (Great Synagogue), built in 1907, and the edifice only be used as a museum, in response to imagined Israeli threats against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Şahin later offered a kind of apology to Turkey’s chief rabbi, saying that his proposal “had no connection” to the country’s Jewish community.

Referring to the assassination of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, an advocate of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, in 2007, Gabay asked: “Is it necessary for a ‘Hrant among us’ to be shot in order for the government, the opposition, civil society, our neighbors and jurists to see this?”

Gabay, a tourism professional, added that increasing numbers of Turkish Jews are making plans to move abroad with their families, feeling unsafe and under pressure in the country.

“Around 37 percent of high school graduates from the Jewish community in Turkey prefer to go abroad for higher education … This number doubled this year compared to the previous years, ” he wrote.

Young businesspeople are leaving, too, according to Gabay, Hurriyet Daily News reports.

“Last week, when I was talking to two of my friends on separate occasions, the conversation turned to our search for another country to move to. That is to say, my generation is also thinking more about leaving this country, ” Gabay wrote.

Gabay’s article was published a few days after verbal attacks on the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, which has been attacked by terrorists in 1986, 1992 and 2003. A poster reading “To Be Demolished” was posted on the entrance to the synagogue only two weeks ago, followed by an attempted “protest” march of the ultra-nationalist youth group Alperen Ocakları to the synagogue, Hurriyet Daily News reports.

In a recent interview with the liberal daily Radikal, Gabay said: “The laws have changed. Hate speech is now a crime, but when has a lawsuit ever been launched over hate speech against our community? I don’t blame the government alone for this. The opposition, civil society, unions and the democratic public sphere should be a shield for us. They should monitor these incidents. Are they waiting for the shooting of a Hrant among us?” he repeated the allusion to the journalist’s assassination.

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