Synagogue under restoration will not be turned into museum, says top official
The historical Büyük Synagogue (Great Synagogue), built in 1907 in the village of Kaleiçi, has been under restoration since 2010 with a budget of 3.7 million Turkish Liras. DHA photosA historical synagogue under restoration in the northwestern province of Edirne will not be turned into a museum, a top state official has said, despite earlier remarks from the province’s governor.
“All decisions regarding the functions of the buildings owned by the Directorate General of Foundations are taken by the directorate,” Foundations Director General Adnan Ertem told Anadolu Agency on Nov. 22.
“Our intentions is to keep that building as a house of worship to serve all visitors,” he added.
Edirne Gov. Dursun Şahin created uproar when he told reporters on Nov. 21 that he ordered the historical Büyük Synagogue (the Great Synagogue), built in 1907 in the village of Kaleiçi, to be turned into a museum, citing the recent Israeli raid on al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
“While those bandits blow winds of war inside al-Aqsa and slay Muslims, we build their synagogues,” Şahin said.
“I say this with a huge hatred inside me. We clean their graveyards, send their projects to boards. But the synagogue here will be registered only as a museum, and there will be no exhibitions inside it.”
However, Ertem vowed that the building, which has been under restoration since 2010 on a budget of 3.7 million Turkish Liras, would serve both as a place of worship and visit, similar to Süleymaniye and Sultanahmet mosques.
“All visitors should be able easily pray there, which is the biggest synagogue in Europe. That is our intention” said Ertem.
The Jewish community in Turkey had applied to the governor’s office to have sermons and wedding ceremonies at the synagogue, whose restoration is almost complete.
“If Şahin does not resign to save the dignity of his post and Turkey’s honor, he should be removed from his post immediately,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Aykan Erdemir said in a written statement.
It is shameful for a public official to make such remarks, added Erdemir, who argued that “hatred and anti-Semitism have seized the state.”
Earlier this month, clashes occurred between Israeli police and Palestinians at the entrance to the 8th-century al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third most sacred place.
Palestinian officials said Israeli forces had crossed the threshold of the mosque for the first time since 1967, while Israeli police denied going into the house of worship.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Israel over the action, warning both Israel and the international community that an Israeli offensive on the al-Aqsa Mosque may pave the way for a “new intifada,” leading to troubles that might spread across the world and not be limited to the Middle East.