First Hanucah lighting takes place in Turkey

Chief Rabbi Izak Haleva and Beşiktaş Mayor Murat Hazinedar (2nd left) Photo: Murat Hazinedar

For the first time in the history of modern Turkey, a public Hanucah lighting ceremony was held in Istanbul. Whether they take place in Washington DC, Bahrain or Berlin, these ceremonies are a good PR exercise by which governments reassure their Jewish minorities and show off a shared culture. The Turkish ceremony comes at a time when the Jewish community is dwindling – thousands are applying for Spanish passports. Predictably, the authorities  are denying that the Jews of Turkey are suffering anti-semitic pressure from the state.

The Times of Israel reports: 

event was organized by the municipality, and attended by the Turkish
chief rabbi and members of the Jewish community, according to Turkey’s
Jewish Şalom newspaper. 

Government representatives were also present
at the candle-lighting, which coincided with the eighth and final night
of the Jewish Festival of Lights.

A video of the ceremony, held outside the
scenic Ortakoy Mosque on the European side of the Bosphorus, showed the
eight-branched candelabra set to be lit as the Muslim call to pray rang
out. Pictures from the event posted on social media showed Turkish girls
in headscarves standing beside the Jewish holiday lamp.

Last week, in a Hanukkah message, Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said “our Jewish citizens are an
indispensable part of our society.”

“With these thoughts I wish peace, happiness
and well-being to all Jews on the occasion of Hanukkah,” Erdogan said on
December 7, according to the Hurriyet Daily News.

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The Daily Sabah reports:

 Turkey’s Jewry usually state that they do not suffer from any kind of
segregation or discrimination in the country. The community rejects
allegations in news sources or dailies that the Turkish state promotes
anti-Semitism in the country with “many Jews deciding to go to Spain
where a law of return is presently being legislated.”

In a statement to Daily Sabah, Turkey’s Jewish community refuted the
accusation of pressure from the Turkish state on their community and
said: “Pressure from the state is out of question.”

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