Turkish Governor Threatens to Turn Synagogue Into Museum

Governor of Turkish city Edirne said it was unjust for Turkey to invest in Jewish places of worship if Israel was infringing on Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

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Screenshot from hurriyetdailynews.com of the historical Büyük Synagogue.
Screenshot from hurriyetdailynews.com of the historical Büyük Synagogue.

The governor of the Turkish city Edirne was under pressure on Saturday, after allegedly saying local Jews would not be able to use a synagogue there because of Israel's actions at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The 100-year-old synagogue is undergoing renovations and when completed "will only serve as a museum" Edirne Governor Dursun Sahin was quoted by local media as saying on Friday.

Sahin reportedly said that it was unjust that Turkey should invest in Jewish places of worship if Israel was infringing on Muslim holy sites. The Turkish state is paying about 3.7 million liras (1.6 million dollars) for the renovations, the Dogan news agency reported.

Tensions in Jerusalem have been rising in recent weeks between Palestinians and Israelis, in large part over the site in the Old City known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews.

Aykan Erdemir, a member of Turkey's parliament for the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said Sahin should either resign or be forced from his job "to save the dignity of his post and Turkey's honour."

He said Sahin's remarks contained anti-Semitic tones, adding that it was part of a wider problem in Turkey.

Rights groups have previously raised alarms about growing anti-Jewish sentiment in some pro-government Turkish media outlets, particularly following the recent war in the Gaza Strip, which left about 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinian civilians.

Turkey's Jewish community, estimated to number about 26,000, has largely stayed out of controversial political matters.

The community has asked to be able to hold special events, such as weddings, at the Edirne synagogue.

Edirne is an ancient city in the European part of northwestern Turkey.

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