1071-1243 CE The first Turkic people arrived from the steppes of Central Asia.These Seljuks fought off the Crusadersand the Mongols and gave rise to theOttomans.
1299 – 1914 CEBy 1820 the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Gulf to Vienna, all along thenorth coast of Africa, around the Red Sea and to the shores of the Caspian.
1914 -1918The British supported an Arab revolt againstthe Ottomans, who sided with Germanyduring the First World War. After the war,the League of Nations took over the Empire. Lawrence of Arabia
1920 -1922 CEThe Ottoman Empire fell as its subjectsrevolted. The Greeks invaded westernTurkey. General Mustafa Kemal organized Turkish forces to defend the Turkish heartland.
1923 The Turks reversed the Greek advance and retained Turkey. Mustafa (known as Attatürk, “Father Turk”) changed Turkey into a secular democracy.
1939 -1945 CETurkey entered the Second World War on the side ofthe Allies shortly before its end and consequentlybenefited from US aid. 1960 Military Coup. The army staged its almost bloodless coup against the DP (Democractic Peak) government. Civilian rule was established in 1961.
1971 “Coup by memorandum.”After three years of political violence and economic problems,the army took over after signaling their intentions in a seriesof memos. 1974 Turkey invaded northern Cyprus claiming it was to protect Turkish Cypriots from a Greek Cypriot military takeover in the south of the island.
1980 More economic problems; another coup. Civilian power restored in 1983. Fighting between Turkish forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party erupts. By 1999 30,000 were dead.
2005Talks on membership to the European Union begin inOctober 2005 contingent on Turkish recognition of Cyprus.
Our trip began on a Thursday afternoon in January as four JTS students, Rabbi Hillel and Debby Millgram, Professor Edwin and Cantor Marlena boarded the El Al flight to Istanbul.
Istanbul has a uniqueposition in the World bybeing the only city settledon two different continentsand thereby offering achance to make anintercontinental trip by busor ferry like some of theIstanbullers do everyday
After the flight, there’s a 45 min bus ride into the city. From the bus the views are breathtaking…Matt Yakov The Boss The Rav
Arriving in the evening the magicthat has captured imaginations forcenturies took hold of our groupof pilgrims.
We hurriedly checked into our hotel and rushed out into theunseasonably warm winter evening. Streets were teeming withactivity. The energy was contagious.
Friday Museums, a church thatbecame a mosque, that became a museum, ancient cisterns & Shabbat
JonFriday morning Taksim Square wasjust as lively. We choose this areaas it is walking distances from thetwo B’tei Knesset which were on ouragenda for Shabbat.
At the center of Taksim Squareis the Monument to the Republic
Finding it was a little tricky but luckily we brought our Israeli logistics officer & as you can see he has every under control?! ¿Dónde estánOur first stop was the yo?Archeological Museumwhich houses treasures fromBiblical times forward.
Hittite Copyof the treatybetweenEqypt(Ramses II)and theHittite Empireafterthe Battle ofKadesh
Ishtar GateAfter the destruction of the first temple in 586 BCE, theHebrew Exiles were taken as prisoners to Babylonia. Theentrance to the city, The Ishtar Gate, built by NebuchadnezarII, opened to the great processional way in which the wallswere covered with giant, fierce animals made of tiles. Anumber of these wall hangings were brought to theArchaeological Museum in Istanbul.
Wesurvived! Hadrian, Roman Emperor whose persecu- tion of Jews led to Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE.
Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) MuseumHagia Sophia church was built over the remains of theprevious basilica by order of Justinian, the ByzantineEmperor. The construction was started in 532 andcompleted in five years. In Hagia Sophia, Justinian hadattemptedfor the firsttime in thehistory ofarchitectureto build agiganticcentraldome over arectangularplan.
The interior illustratesHagia Sofia’s variousincarnations.
Hagia Sophia, which was converted to a mosque in Ottoman period, was turned intoa museum on Atatürks orders after the foundation of Turkish Republic.
Yerebatan (Basilica)CisternThe largest of coveredcisterns in the city wasbuilt during the reign ofJustinian I, the ByzantineEmperor. 336 columnsarranged in 12 rowssupport brick cross-vaultscovering an area of 9800sq.m. Lots of fish swimvery happily in the cistern.
I’m head Yicks! overheels for you Hazzanijanim
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii, aka Blue Mosque)is known for its six minarets and its visual effect of perfect harmony.
Because Shabbat comes early in January, we rushedback to the hotel midafternoon to prepare for ErevShabbat services at Beth Israel and the main focus ofour trip – the Jewish musical traditions of Turkey.
Early Jews to IstanbulJews have lived in Turkey more than 500 years. Most of them were exiled from Spainand came to Turkey to start a new life. During the 16th century the Sultan accepted theJews into the Ottoman Empire and they were allowed to work, rent houses, marry, havetheir own business and also pray. These Jews spoke Judeo-Spanish and until today youcan find Jewish families who speak this dialect at home. The music in this presentation isfrom the Turkish-Sephardic Tradition.
Following thecollapse of theOttomanempire, manyminorities leftthe country.Todaystatistics showthat there areabout 20thousand Jewsin Turkey and anumber ofsynagogues.While for themost part theylive in peacewith Christiansand Muslims,the communitywas shatteredwhen ...
In 1986 Palestinian gunmen rushed into Neve Shalom synagogueduring Shabbat morning services and opened fire on the clergy andcongregation killing 22 worshippers and wounding six. And…The Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah carried out abomb attack against the synagogue in 1992. No one was injured. And...On November 15, 2003, two truck bombs simultaniously slammedinto the Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues and explodedduring Shabbat morning Bar Mitzvah celebration. The explosionsdevastated the synagogues and killed twenty-seven people, most ofthem Turkish Muslims, also injuring more than 300 others. Six Jewswere among the dead.
Memorial Plaque and new entrance to Neve Shalom
Due to the terrorist attacks all visitors are required toregister with the office of the Chief Rabbi before visitingthe Istanbul synagogues.Our plan was to daven Erev Shabbat at Beth Israel andShabbat morning at Neve Shalom and return forShabbat Mincha/Maariv to Beth Israel.Hazzan David Zvi of Beit Knesset Beth Israel invitedour group to tour the shul Friday afternoon beforeShabbat.
As our cabs approached the area of the Beth Israel, all roads wereblocked. The drivers left us near a subway station and still having alittle time before Shabbat, we took the train to a station a few blocksfrom the shul. When we came out of the train station we learned thatthe Armenian outspoken yet moderate editor/reporter Hrank Dink hadbeen assasinated only two blocks from Beth Israel in the Shishlidistrict……our destination.The city was in uproar.
With this lastest addition to crimes against ethnic and religious groups a palldescended on the Erev Shabbat services. None the less we were warmlywelcomed Friday evening at Beth Israel and Shabbat morning at Neve Shalom.At Neve Shalom the students were given special honors in the service and wewere invited to Kiddush after which the president acted as our personal tour guideto the synagogue.The Turkish Tradition is very formal with the Chief Rabbi appearing in purplevestments and the under rabbis in red. Mourners are greeted during the serviceand worshipers have a set of gestures not seen in Ashkenaz synagogues andwhich were quite a delight to our American students.
Neve ShalomSynagogue(1949) is themost beautifuland importantsynagogue inIstanbul,where most ofthe religiousceremonieslike barmitzahs,weddings andfunerals areheld.
Shabbat afternoon we walked back to Beth Israel to join Hazzan David Zviand about 30 men in the resurrected tradition of singing Maftirim*. Even thedirector of the program (poor, lowly woman that she is) was given a song bookletand allowed to join in. Following this lively jam session mincha and maarivservices were attended by more than 100 Turkish Jews: men, women and children.
*Maftirim is a musical formof para-liturgical poetrywhich originated from theinteraction of Jewish andMuslim Sufis** in 16thcentury. **Sufism is a mystic tradition within Islam that encompasses a diverse range of beliefs and practices dedicated to Divine love and the cultivation of the elements of the Divine within the individual human being. Practitioners of this tradition are known as "Sufis" generally, though some senior members of the tradition reserve this term for those who have attained the goals of the tradition.
Fish is the specialty of the chic restaurant district on Istiklal Caddesi.
Sunday afternoon walkoffered views of the many mosques
Süleymaniye (Suleiman) MosqueThis 16th century masterpiece wasconstructed by Architect Sinan, themost famous of Ottoman architects,by order of Süleyman theMagnificient. Its construction wasbegan in 1550 and was finished in1557. The 53 m. high central dome ofthe mosque rests on four pillars,called elephant-feet, and has adiameter of 26.5 m.