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Jews Increasingly Fleeing Turkey as Safety Concerns Mount

Increasingly concerned for their safety, Turkey’s Jews are fleeing the country in greater numbers, according to a story today in Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish newspaper. Citing a recent column in the Turkish-Jewish publication Salom by community leader Mois Gabay, Hurriyet reports:

“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. …

“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.

Gabay wrote that the desire to leave Turkey isn’t limited to students. He observed that after talking to contemporaries, he concluded “my generation is also thinking more about leaving this country.” Gabay also complained that laws prohibiting hate speech are not enforced.

Gabay’s column appeared shortly after a phony demolition notice appeared on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue.

The demolition notice and the behavior of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government prompted criticism from Ira Forman, the State Department’s special envoy for fighting anti-Semitism.

We are concerned when civil society or political leaders call on the Jewish community to denounce Israel,” Forman said in reference to such calls. Prime Minister Tayyp Erdogan made similar statements during Israel’s summer war with Hamas in Gaza.

“And we are concerned when we hear that someone posted a sign reading ‘to be demolished’ on Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue,” Forman said in reference to an incident that occurred this week.

The “demolition” of the Istanbul synagogue comes weeks after the Great Synagogue in the northwestern province of Erdine was threatened to be forcibly converted into a museum by Erdine’s governor, as collective punishment for Israel’s policies towards the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The governor, a member of Erdogan’s AKP party, later backed down from his threat.

The overt anti-Semitism of Erdogan’s party has long been a feature of his government. Last year both Turkish and Israeli analysts wrote that they did not believe Turkey would reconcile with Israel due to the Turkish government’s entrenched anti-Semitism.

[Photo: Senia L / Flickr ]