Governor offers ‘apology’ to Turkey’s Chief Rabbi over synagogue controversy
Edirne's Büyük Sinagog (Great Synagogue), built in 1907 under Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, is the second largest synagogue in Europe. AA PhotoThe governor accused of inciting hatred toward Turkey’s Jewish community has offered an “apology” to the country’s Chief Rabbi, claiming that his proposal to turn a synagogue into a museum as a reprisal for Israel’s policies over Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque “had no connection” to the Turkish Jewish community.
Dursun Ali Şahin, the governor of the northwestern province of Edirne, sparked an outcry when he said on Nov. 21 that the Büyük Sinagog (the Great Synagogue), built in 1907 under Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, should only be used as a museum.
Şahin called Turkey’s Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva on Nov. 24 to offer an “apology” for his remarks, but also expressed his “profound sadness” that they were misunderstood and “distorted,” the office of the chief rabbi said in a statement released late on Nov. 24.
Around the same time as the statement was released, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said the governor had made a “mistake” and assured that the synagogue, the second biggest in Europe, would not lose its status.
“While restoring the synagogue, one cannot think about taking away its function as a place of worship,” Arınç told reporters at a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting on Nov. 24.
“The governor made a mistake. I respect and appreciate him. He acted emotionally. We condemn the atrocities against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but we cannot look at the Jews here with an evil eye,” he added.