The small Jewish community in Edirne, in northwest Turkey, has waited patiently since 1976 for a wedding in its local synagogue – and when it finally occurred yesterday, the response it drew from other Turks was less than celebratory.
The wedding was set to be such a significant and joyous event that it was decided to broadcast it via Periscope and Twitter – a particularly popular social medium in Turkey. However, it drew the attention of anti-Semites in the country, and the bride, groom and Jewish community in general were told, “Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job” and the like.
Edirne has a Jewish history of some 1,500 years, but just 50 years ago, only 100 Jews lived in Edirne. Finally, the local Jewish cemetery there was confiscated by the authorities, and then destroyed to make way for a residential neighbourhood.
Then began the upswing. In 2013, the synagogue was renovated, and last year it was opened to the public. Its first wedding, yesterday, drew many members of the budding Jewish community, and the joy was great. Community leader Yitzchak Ibrahimzadeh even decided that it should be shared with the public at large, via Twitter. The happiness turned to consternation, however, as the responses began tweeting in: “Kill the Jews!” “Get out of occupied Palestine!” etc.
Ibrahimzadeh did not lose heart. “Many anti-Semites expressed their hatred on the Periscope broadcast,” he tweeted back. “Together, hand in hand, we will overcome them.” He proudly included pictures of a synagogue, church, mosque and Turkish flag, symbolizing his hope that unity would win the day.
The small Turkish-Jewish community, numbering not more than 17,000, disseminated the news of the anti-Semitic barrage, and it was mentioned in various news media.
Anti-Semitism in Turkey is a common phenomenon. Polls conducted in 2007–2009 showed that 64% of Turks would not want to see Jews as their neighbors, and 76% have a negative attitude towards Jews. A recent article by the New York-based Gatestone Institute entitled “Turkey’s Runaway Anti-Semitism” states that while there is “always an unusual optimism in the official language chosen by Israeli officials or Jewish community leaders [regarding anti-Semitism in Turkey], facts on the ground are a little bit different than the rosy picture.”
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