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Ankara still sees the two countries' relations through the Al-Aqsa lenses.

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog on the bima with Rabbi David Sevi at the Neve Shalom Synagogue, reading from the Torah. (Photo: Jewish Insider)

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My fellow brothers and sisters of the Jewish Community… My wife Michal and I are very pleased to meet you. It’s as if we are old friends that have not met for years. (…)”

President Isaac Herzog’s address to the Jewish Community greeting him at the Neve Shalom Synagogue of Istanbul during his recent visit to Turkey last month, was an emotional one…

“Some thirty years ago, my late father Haim Herzog and my late mother Aura were here as guests of this vibrant Community. This was to honour the five centuries’ celebration of the Sephardic Jews in the Ottoman lands and the inauguration of the 500th Year Jewish Foundation… 

My father was not the first from my family to be here. In 1944, in the middle of those devastating times of the Holocaust, my grandfather, the late Rabbi Yitshak Isaac Herzog Allevy – then the Chief Rabbi of Israel – and my uncle Yaacov came here with a special mission: To save the persecuted Jewish people of Europe… 

Both my father and grand-father expressed their warm feelings emphasizing that the Sephardic Jews that came following the Inquisition and the already existing Jews formed a well-integrated community in the local society, contributing to its history writting: Rabbi Yossef Caro of Safed, the writer of the Shulhan Aruch; Donna Gracia Mendes, who laid the first Jewish settlements at Tiberias; Rabbi Shlomo HaLevi Alkabets known for his Lecha Dodi Hymn sung at the inauguration of the Shabbat; Moshe Amon, the doctor of Soleiman the Magnificent and many others leaders, poets, artists, wise people were part of history that shaped the Jewish presence and history in these lands.”

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President Herzog continued:

One of Izmir’s greatest gaon, Rabbi Haim Palacci, said that ‘all the people of Yisrael are responsible from one and another and act as guarantors to each other’… So indeed, dear Brothers and Sisters, all Yisrael is attached to destiny, and you Jews of Turkey, are a good example and role model for that… 

You have experienced in this very synagogue, Neve Shalom, various attacks leaving many dead from the community and neighbours. Unfortunately, synagogues, Jewish schools, and businesses have been the subject of attacks of hate and animosity all around the world, and they still are.”

Although many remain skeptical of the results, Herzog’s visit to Ankara has put a kind of energy into the Turco – Israeli relations that were at the bottom level for more than a decade. He went on to say: 

“Yesterday, on a historic visit, I met President Erdogan. During our meeting, I confirmed how the bilateral relations between the two nations are important to me. I also said that, in the Middle East, we – people of all religions – have to live side by side in harmony. It was nice to hear that he agreed with me. He stated that regional stability has to be cared for and improved. I said that I believe that, in those dark days of the war in Ukraine, while a brutal tragedy was unfolding, it was the duty to follow the footsteps of Abraham’s children [1] in implementing respect and harmony, refraining from hatred, racism, ethnic violence…” 

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Were the two presidents really of the same opinion about the conflicting problems of their agenda, or were they using the exact wording, which meant different things to them? 

Turkey thinks Israel needs her to bring the Mediterranean natural gas to Europe. Israel believes that Turkey, squeezed between Iran and Russia for her needs on natural gas, will side with Israel.

Then there are some security concerns that both countries are facing. Obviously, good cooperation on military and intelligence topics, like the one seen in the nineties, will strengthen the former allies’ relations.

However, Ankara still sees the two countries’ relations through the Al-Aqsa lenses.

The latest – and traditional – made-up incidents on the Temple Mount met harsh criticism again from President Erdogan. Although Ankara condemned the various terror attacks seen during the last couple of weeks in Israel, when things come to Hamas and its affiliated groups’ activities, Erdogan’s wording and tonality changes towards the provocative.

The President of Israel Isaac Herzog visited his counterpart, President Recap Erdogan at the Turkish Presidential Palace, March 2022. (Photo: Haim Zach/Government Press Office (Israel), via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Furthermore, PM Bennet has lost the majority at the Knesset. The latest news that Mansour Abbas, who has backed the existing government, started to raise concerns fills Erdogan with many questions, not easy to answer. The mere doubt of Netanyahu forming a government may alter the conditions from spring to winter…

On the other hand, Turkey does not want to stay out of the good atmosphere created by the Abraham accords. With Russia in war to invade Ukraine and increase its activity in Syria, Iran developing its nukes, the strategic alliance in East Mediterranean among Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel signed during the covid-19 times puts Erdogan in a stressed position. 

With all this, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoğlu informed last week that he is planning to visit Israel towards the end of May. In his statement to journalists, he declared: 

“Turkey’s relations with Israel have marked ups and downs from 1949 on. This was not due to bilateral relations but mainly the Palestinian problem. President Erdogan endorses a two-state solution, and he made this clear in his meeting with President Herzog. Turkey and Israel have many common interests. We hold intense cultural and social relations. Despite the difficulties arising from the pandemic, the business volume between our countries has increased considerably during the last three years.” 

Looking from Canada to the Near East, can one see all these polemics shaping this region? Yet, can one fairly evaluate the miracles Israel has undergone in the last couple of years?

From a country in total isolation, it turned out to be holding diplomatic relations with an increasing number of countries in the Muslim world. Let’s hope that these diplomatic successes will bring lasting peace to the region.

President Herzog concluded his speech at Neve Shalom Synagogue: “Our world needs more peace and fewer wars, tragedies and battles. In the words of the prayer: ‘May He who makes peace in His heights make peace upon us and all Israel; and say, Amen.'” 

[1] I wonder whether President Herzog referred to the Abraham Accords!

Marsel Russo was born in Istanbul and was raised in a secular Jewish family. He holds a Chemistry degree and an MBA. His deep interest in the Jewish history of the 20th century, as well as other topics, has appeared since 2005 in Shalom, the weekly newspaper of the Jewish community of Turkey.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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