Jews in Turkey hope for better Turkey-Israel ties
ISTANBUL - Anadolu Agency
Prominent Turkish Jewish businessman Ishak Alaton criticized the current Israeli government for its stance toward Turkey, and stressed the importance of non-governmental organizations in repairing relations and overcoming prejudice against Jews. AA photoTurkish Jews have expressed hope that Turkey and Israel will overcome their differences, despite lingering tension.
“It [Mavi Marmara] was an unpleasant incident. It shouldn’t have happened the way it developed. I feel very sorry about what happened,” Dr. Esther Webman, the head of the Zeev Vered Desk for the Study of Tolerance and Intolerance in the Middle East, told Anadolu Agency.
“Both countries have to understand each other. I still think that there is some basis, at least strategic basis, for cooperation between the two countries. I am sure we will get over this crisis,” Webman added.
She also reflected on the situation of Jews living in Turkey. “The number was much larger in the past. It is now only 15,000. They sometimes left because they did not feel very safe due to the tension between Israel and Turkey and some anti-Semitic manifestations in Turkey,” she said.
Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, who holds both Turkish and Israeli citizenship, said the atmosphere after the Mavi Marmara and Davos incidents had a negative impact on the Turkish Jewish community. “In that period, [my friends] had difficulty finding jobs. Some of them were fired, others were accused of different things. All of these hurt them very much because they see themselves as much more Turkish than Jewish,” Yanarocak said.
“I saw that some have been migrating to Israel in recent years, but others have preferred to stay because they think they will live more comfortably when relations between the two countries are fixed,” he added.
Prominent Turkish Jewish businessman Ishak Alaton criticized the current Israeli government for its stance toward Turkey, and stressed the importance of non-governmental organizations in repairing relations and overcoming prejudice against Jews.
“The current Israeli government is a government that doesn’t look favorably on Turkey. The Mavi Marmara case was a big mistake, a big disaster and a big injustice. I don’t think Israel’s official policy is helpful in repairing relations between Israel and Turkey. But I think we, as non-governmental organizations, should know each other in spite of disputes between the two countries. Because governments go, but societies remain,” Alaton said.
Around 15,000 Jews are estimated to live in Turkey today, while Israel hosts over 100,000 Jews who have migrated from Turkey over the course of the years, according to figures.
Nine Turkish nationals were killed in 2010 in an operation by the Israeli army aboard the Mavi Marmara ship, which was seeking to break the blockade on Gaza.