Jewish youth leaving Turkey due to political strains

Jewish youth leaving Turkey due to political strains

JERUSALEM – Hürriyet Daily News
Jewish youth leaving Turkey due to political strains

This photo shows Istanbul’s historic Neve Shalom Synagogue. Association of Turkish Jews in Israel Deputy Chairman Nasim Güveniş says Turkish Jews have sensed a turn for the worse in the atmosphere in recent years. DAILY NEWS photo

The negative atmosphere and deteriorating relationship between Turkey and Israel is putting pressure on the small community of nearly 15,000 Jews in Turkey and prompting young Turkish Jews to emigrate from the country.

Anti-Semitism, triggered by harsh statements from the Turkish government, has led to the migration of hundreds of Jewish youngsters from Turkey to the U.S. or Europe, Nesim Güveniş, deputy chairman the Association of Turkish Jews in Israel, told the Hürriyet Daily News on Oct. 21.

This unease went before the Mavi Marmara incident, and was aggravated by the notorious “one minute” spat between the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos, according to Güveniş.

Peres ‘a man of peace’

“Is [Israeli President Shimon] Peres a man that could be told ‘one minute’? He is known in the world as a man of peace,” Güveniş said, recalling the Davos debate in which Erdoğan accused Peres of "knowing well how to kill" before storming out of the venue.

Güveniş is one of the 80,000 Turkish Jews in Israel who migrated in 1981. His primary reason for migrating was his two children’s unease in the politically tense Turkey of the late 1970s.

“They didn’t want to go to university where leftists or other groups were putting pressure on them to take sides at school. They went to university in Israel and we also had to move again after a couple of years. The first two years in Israel were difficult, and we had to learn the language. But I don’t regret it,” he said.

Güveniş also expressed unease on the remarks of Turkish leaders against Jews, which he says does not contribute to perception of Turkish people. “Look the environment in Turkey at the moment. We are uncomfortable with being ‘othered’ ... I am more Turkish than many. But we couldn’t make them believe it,” he said.

Israeli businessman now hesitate to make new investments in Turkey due to the atmosphere of enmity, Güveniş also noted, contrasting the present day with the past, when Turkey had much stronger relations with Israel.