Det bor 17.000 jøder i Tyrkia, vesentlig konsentrert i Istanbul og Ankara. Samarbeidet mellom Tyrkia og Israel gjorde at de følte seg trygge. Men siden Mavi Marmara-episoden har stemningen blitt fiendtlig og mange vurderer å forlate landet.
Det første signalet om en ny kurs begynte under Gaza-krigen i januar 2009, da statsminister Recep Tayyip Erdogan forlot Shimon Peres i raseri under en debatt i Davos. Israel-hatefulle filmer og TV-serier har bidratt til atmosfæren av fiendtlighet.
The Jewish Agency and the Israeli government have tried for decades to convince the Jews of Turkey to move to Israel. However, they felt safe in Turkey and few immigrated. Ever since the flotilla incident and the anti-Israeli statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, the situation has changed.
«Eighty-five Jews immigrated in the first half of this year,» said Jack Aboursi, chairman of the Organization for Turkish Immigrants in Israel. «Turkey has already become a country in which it is not good to live as a Jew. There is anti-Semitism, and the street is very affected by the prime minister’s inflammatory statements. I used to visit Turkey a few times a year, but it has been two years since I have visited. Nor do I see myself visiting.»
Refael Saadi, 55, one of Erdogan’s classmates, is also hurt by the situation. «Most of the Jews of Turkey made a living in textile. But recently there is a feeling that they are trying to take the textile industry from the Jews. The Turks decided to damage Jews’ incomes so they would flee.
«There has been a large emigration wave in recent years. If about 100 people would typically move to Israel every year, the wave has increased and many more are looking into the option of making aliyah. I told Erdogan there is anti-Semitism in his country, but he rejected my remarks claiming they are empty words. Despite his denial, the Jews feel horrible.»
Nissim Yochai, 54, a successful textile businessman, immigrated to Israel on Friday with his wife and son. «It’s a scary situation,» he said. «I think that in another five years, there won’t be any Jews remaining in Turkey. It is a community in serious distress, not just politically, but economically as well. Most of the Muslims tend not to buy from Jewish shops, especially in textiles.
«In the period when Israelis were coming to Turkey en masse, we had buyers, and we felt very safe. We spoke a little bit of Hebrew, and we heard from them about experiences in Israel. Now, they also have decided not to come, and we are left by ourselves. Turkey is moving towards Iran. Therefore, most of the community wants to get out before it’s too late.»