Increasing Number of Turkish Jews Flee Over Safety Concerns

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Demonstrators in Istanbul try to protect themselves from tear gas and water cannons used by Turkish riot police to disperse them, October 7, 2014. Credit: AP

An increasing number of Jews are leaving Turkey due to safety concerns. According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, businessmen in the Jewish community tell of increasing threats, attacks and harassment faced by community members.

Prominent businessman Mois Gabay, who works in the tourist industry, wrote recently that the government and opposition, as well as civil society and the community’s neighbors should wake up to these facts before anyone is killed, as happened to Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.

Gabay added that 37 percent of Jewish high school graduates already prefer leaving Turkey to study abroad and that these numbers are rapidly increasing. Young and even established businesspeople are also seeking their futures elsewhere, he wrote.

His column came days after a verbal attack on the Neve Shalom synagogue, which has been the target of attacks using explosives on three previous occasions. Two weeks ago a note was plastered on the synagogue’s entrance, reading: “to be demolished.” Youth from an ultranationalist group later tried to march to the synagogue as part of a wider protest. Gabay said that legislation against hate crimes is insufficient to protect the community.

A further outcry arose in November when the governor of Edirne province suggested that a synagogue in his province be used only as a museum, in response to Israel’s policies at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. 

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