Ankara’s Abandoned Jewish Quarter

Although Turkey’s largest and most important Jewish communities—Istanbul and Izmir foremost among them—were located on the country’s western coast, Ankara was also once home to a sizable Jewish population. In the 1930s, it numbered some 5,000 souls, most of whom lived in a separate neighborhood in the old part of the city; now only two dozen are left. Jeyan Idil Aslan, a resident of Ankara, recounts a visit to the now-decrepit Jewish quarter:

The existence of the Jewish population in the city dates back to the 1st century BCE. They [came under the rule of] the Ottoman empire during the [14th century]. Sephardi Jews who moved to the region [following the expulsion from Spain in 1492] had an important place in the city’s economy. In the 19th century, their number decreased as a result of many disasters and epidemics. . . . Jews were [also] engaged with many different types of craftsmanship. . . . They were heavily affected by the fire that destroyed the most beautiful neighborhoods of the city in 1916.

Visiting the neighborhood left me with a feeling of sadness. To see the beautiful houses leaning to their sides as a result of neglect; not to be able to see the garden of the synagogue, let alone to go inside. The Jewish Quarter is in the middle of the city, but it appears today an abandoned space. This history falls to the ground brick by brick every day.

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More about: History & Ideas, Ottoman Empire, Romaniote Jewry, Sephardim, Synagogues, Turkey, Turkish Jewry

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank