The decision of the prefect of Edirne, Dursun Şahin, to prohibit the use of the synagogue in the city – as punishment, he said, for Israel’s alleged actions against the Al-Aqsa mosue in Jerusalem – brought strong reactions in Turkey and from the US-based Anti Defamation League.
Dursun Sahin, governor of the province of Edirne, said he was turning the 107-year old Buyuk Synagogue into a museum and would not permit the Jewish community to use it for ritual purposes.
“While these thieves (Israelis) open war inside the Al Aqsa mosque and kill Muslims, we build their synagogues. I am telling you this with hatred. We clean their cemeteries and promote their plans. Therefore the synagogue will open only as a museum without being able to make exhibitions in it”, he said, according to a report by the Independent Balkan News Agency.
The Jewish community was not slow to react and said that “no one has the right to have targeted the Jews of Turkey, who are proud for being a part of Ottoman and Turkish society”.
There was also a strong reaction from the representative of non-Muslim Foundations, Lakis Viga, who after stating that the word “hatred” used by the prefect is “heavy”, wondered saying “how will we raise our children? What do some people want? To deny our identity? That is not possible. Our identity has great value. Our existence is constantly felt on the negotiation table. Should we cry out “no more” and “enough is enough?”
Turkish newspaper Hürriyet described what the perfect said as “statements of shame”.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed outrage at Şahin’s threats to turn the century-old synagogue into a museum.
The Turkish government is currently paying for a renovation of the synagogue.
In a statement, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said : ‘’We are outraged by the Edirne governor’s hostile statements and intent to bar Jewish worship and ceremonies from this historic synagogue as an act of punishment for alleged Israeli actions. He did not try to hide his hatred of Jews – it was clearly expressed in his public comments.’’
These statements and actions, he said, ‘’exacerbate the sense of unease and heighten the concern felt by the age-old Turkish Jewish community in the face of increasingly hostile public discourse towards Jews and Israel in Turkey.’’
ADL welcomed the rejection of Şahin’s comments by Turkish officials in charge of this Jewish religious site and urged responsible leaders at the highest levels of the Turkish government ‘’to add their voices of rejection and condemnation of these offensive and threatening comments.’’