Many people from Turkey’s Jewish community are leaving the country after increased threats and attacks, a prominent businessman from the community has written in an article for the Istanbul-based Jewish newspaper Şalom.
“We face threats, attacks and harassment every day. Hope is fading. 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?” Mois Gabay wrote on Dec. 10, referring to the murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink in 2007. Gabay, a professional in the tourism industry, 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.
It is not only students, who have begun to think about building a life abroad for their families and children, but also young businesspeople according to Gabay.
“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,” he wrote.
Gabay’s column came a few days after verbal attacks on the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, which has been attacked with explosives on three previous occasions in 1986, 1992 and 2003. A paper reading “to be demolished” was placed on the entrance of the synagogue by an unknown group two weeks ago. Later, the Alperen Ocakları, the youth group of the ultranationalist Great Union Party (BBP), attempted to march to the synagogue as a part of a protest.
In a recent interview with Radikal, Gabay also said changes in the law and the recognition of hate crimes in the Turkish penal code are not sufficient for the protection of Turkey’s Jewish community.
Jews ‘leaving Turkey due to safety concerns’ (December/16/2014)
Traditionally, aliyah from Turkey to Israel has been low since the 1950s. Despite the antisemitism and occasional violence, Jews felt generally safe in Turkey. In the 2000s, despite surging antisemitism, including antisemitic incidents, aliyah remained low. In 2008, only 112 Turkish Jews emigrated, and in 2009, that number only rose to 250. However, in the aftermath of the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, antisemitism in Turkey increased and became more open, and it was reported that the community was also subjected to economic pressure. A boycott of Jewish businesses, especially textile businesses, took place. As a result, the number of Turkish Jews emigrating to Israel increased. By September 2010, the Jewish population of Turkey had dropped to 17,000, from a previous population of 23,000. Currently, the Jewish community is feeling increasingly threatened by extremists. In addition to safety concerns, some Turkish Jews also emigrated to Israel to find a Jewish spouse due to the increasing difficulty of finding one in the small Turkish Jewish community. In 2012, it was reported that the number of Jews expressing interest in moving to Israel rose by 100%, a large number of Jewish business owners were seeking to relocate their businesses to Israel, and that hundreds were moving every year. (x)