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“Immigrating Out of Fear”
by YnetNews - Danny Adino Ababa   
August 31st, 2010

In last half year, faced with rising anti-Semitism, increasing number of Turkish Jews immigrating to Israel. Recent attempts made by Istanbul mayor to quell fears have not mitigated concerns. 'We are afraid,' says Turkish immigrant

About a week ago, Turkish Jews invited about 200 Muslims to break the Ramadan fast at the main synagogue in Istanbul. The response was overwhelming, and even Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas, a supporter of the Jews, was present at the event.

"I have many Jewish friends even back from my studies," he said to those present. "The recent events are not only difficult for Israel, but also for us Turks. I ask of you to tell the Israelis to return to our country. It is a mistake to think that the Turks will not accept the Israelis with cordiality."

Topbas' warm words on Turkish Jewry's contributions to his country did not mitigate the concerns of the Jews present. "We all live in fear," said one of them in the presence of the distinguished guest. "The street is affected by what happens in politics, and we are on the brink of desperation from life here. We love Turkey, but will not be able to live so long in fear."

There are currently 17,000 Jews living in Turkey. Most of them live in Istanbul and Ankara, with smaller concentrations in Izmir, Adana, Bursa, and a number other smaller cities.

The Marmara raid, which prompted many Turks to take to the streets, did not leave the Jews many options. "The situation has not calmed down, but has only gotten worse. The Jews feel isolated," one participant expressed a sentiment shared by many Jews in the community.

The Jewish Agency and the Israeli government have tried for decades to convince the Jews of Turkey to move to Israel. However, they felt safe in Turkey and few immigrated. Ever since the flotilla incident and the anti-Israeli statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, the situation has changed.

"Eighty-five Jews immigrated in the first half of this year," said Jack Aboursi, chairman of the Organization for Turkish Immigrants in Israel. "Turkey has already become a country in which it is not good to live as a Jew. There is anti-Semitism, and the street is very affected by the prime minister's inflammatory statements. I used to visit Turkey a few times a year, but it has been two years since I have visited. Nor do I see myself visiting."

Refael Saadi, 55, one of Erdogan's classmates, is also hurt by the situation. "Most of the Jews of Turkey made a living in textile. But recently there is a feeling that they are trying to take the textile industry from the Jews. The Turks decided to damage Jews' incomes so they would flee.

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