Photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)
President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog visited the Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul this morning and met with representatives of the Turkish Jewish community. During their visit, the President was welcomed into the sanctuary by the ceremonial sound of the shofars. The president honored the victims murdered in the synagogue terror attacks in 1986 and 2003 and lit a candle in their memory. Later, the president joined in singing a psalm and recited a blessing on the Torah. President Herzog also recited Kaddish for his late mother, former first lady Aura Herzog, who died in January.
The President and First Lady were joined by Hakham Bashi (Chief Rabbi) Ishak Haleva, Turkish Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism Ahmet Misbah Demircan, and Turkish Jewish Community Co-Chairs Erol Kohen and Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, Honorary Consul of Turkey. Israel in İzmir Jak Eskinazi, and Chabad envoy Rabbi Mendy Chitrik. The Neve Shalom Synagogue is the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul.
President Isaac Herzog began his address by saying, “My brothers and sisters, members of the Jewish community, my wife Michal and I are delighted to meet you and bless you, as one does after seeing a friend after a long period, ‘Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life and sustained us, and brought us to this moment.
“On this special occasion, I wish, together with you, to say a prayer for the peace of our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community of Ukraine, and to pray that the Holy One, blessed be He, will protect them and save them from trouble. and distress.”
The president added: “Both my father and my grandfather recalled, during their historic visits, how Turkey opened its doors and its heart to the daughters and sons of the Jewish people, who found a solid footing here. . The Jews expelled from Spain and the ancient Jewish community of Turkey integrated into Turkish society and played an important role in writing the history of the Jewish people. The author of the Shulchan Aruch Rabbi Yosef Caro, Doña Gracia Nasi, Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz, the scholar Moses Amon, who was Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent’s personal physician, and a long line of rabbis, poets, sages, merchants, entrepreneurs, leaders – all of this is only part of the story of the Jewish people here on this earth.
“My brothers and sisters, all Jews are bound by bonds of mutual responsibility and shared destiny; and you, members of the Jewish community in Turkey, are a wonderful example. You are a symbol of mutual responsibility, of tradition, of community, in the face of all challenges. I know that the Jewish community here in Turkey, including in this synagogue, Neve Shalom, suffered in the flesh from painful terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, all over the world, Jewish schools and synagogues, Jewish shops and businesses remain in the crosshairs of enemies. You have my support and I salute the authorities’ commitment to the well-being and freedom of the Turkish Jewish community.
President Herzog continued: “Yesterday I met President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a historic visit to Ankara. We had a good open and honest conversation. When we met, I told him how important the Israeli-Turkish relationship is to me. I told him that I believe that all of us, children of all religions in the Middle East, can and must live in peace. I was happy to hear from him that he agrees with me and that he too thinks that regional stability is very important and that we must strengthen what unites us, what unites all religions and all peoples.
“We understood that we both believe that in days like these, with the winds of war and the terrible tragedy in Ukraine, we must walk the path of the legacy of the children of Abraham. A heritage of respect, tolerance and friendship. From a relentless fight against racism, anti-Semitism and hatred of the other.
“Our world needs more peace and less wars, tragedies and battles. In the words of the prayer: “Let him who makes peace in his heights make peace for us and for all Israel; and say: Amen.’”