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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Read more at Lavarla

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

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy