Sunday, December 13, 2015

Let There be Light! Happy Hanukkah from Istanbul

What a great day it was in Istanbul. I would have loved so much to have been there (on my way in just a few weeks)!

For the first time in Turkish history, the Jewish community held a public lighting of the Hanukkah candles, on the eight and last night of the Jewish holiday. It took place in the Ortaköy neighborhood, part of the district of Beşiktaş. 

In fact, the festive event was sponsored by the local municipality, together with the Jewish community, which stands at about 15,000-17,000. Also, taking part in the candle lighting was not only the Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva but also the Imam from the neighboring historical Ortaköy Mosque (in the neighborhood, there is a synagogue, mosque, and church within a small closed walking district). 

In addition to members of the Beşiktaş municipality, representatives from the Istanbul Greater Municipality, and Turkey's foreign ministry took part. According to the article on CNN Turk, representatives from Israel and Spain's Istanbul consulates were also present. The lighting of the candles come at a great time since in the recent past we have been hearing about rising antisemitism in Turkey, with some claiming that the Jews are "packing their bags" ready to leave (something I refute in a recent article).

In the below tweet the mayor of Beşiktaş states: "We have made another first in Istanbul. We lit Hanukkah candles together with our Jewish citizens in Ortaköy Square" 

In another tweet, journalist Nese Berber stated: "The candles that were lit by Jews, Muslims, and Christians will light our country." 

Happy Hanukkah! Hanuka Bayramı Kutlu Olsun!