Turkish Islamists hold anti-Israel rally at Istanbul synagogue, kick doors
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'If you prevent our freedom of worship there then we will prevent your freedom of worship here'

Turkish Islamists hold anti-Israel rally at Istanbul synagogue, kick doors

Protesting metal detectors at Temple Mount, demonstrators hurl stones at Jewish house of worship, decry 'terror state' Israel

Illustrative: Kürşat Mican speaking to reporters at a protest at the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey. (Kürşat Mican/Instagram, via JTA)
Illustrative: Kürşat Mican speaking to reporters at a protest at the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, Turkey. (Kürşat Mican/Instagram, via JTA)

A group of Turkish ultra-nationalists on Thursday protested outside one of the most significant synagogues in Istanbul to denounce Israel’s security measures at the Temple Mount following a deadly attack last Friday that left two Israeli police officers dead, the Dogan news agency said.

The group from the Alperen Hearths, a far-right ultranationalist and Islamist youth group, said in a statement read outside the Neve Salom synagogue in central Istanbul that Israel was a “terror state” seeking to block freedom for worship to Muslims.

“If you prevent our freedom of worship there then we will prevent your freedom of worship here,” said the statement.

It was read by the group’s local chairman Kursat Mican.

Exterior of Istanbul's Neve Shalom synagogue in Galata. (Avi Lewis, Jon Weidberg)
Exterior of Istanbul’s Neve Shalom synagogue in Galata. (Avi Lewis, Jon Weidberg)

The Foundation of the Turkish Chief Rabbinate — which looks after the country’s small Jewish community mainly concentrated in Istanbul — angrily criticized the protest.

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We condemn the provocative action outside the Neve Salom synagogue tonight. We expect that the relevant authorities will take the necessary measures,” it said in a statement.

According to Dogan, some protesters kicked the doors of the synagogue and threw stones. They later dispersed.

The synagogue usually has a heavy police guard. It was targeted by deadly attacks in 1986 by Palestinian terrorists and again in 2003, which was attributed to Islamists.

While nationalists protest occasionally outside Israel’s diplomatic missions in Turkey, a demonstration outside a synagogue is unusual.

Muslim worshipers perform noon prayers the Lion's Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Muslim worshipers perform noon prayers the Lions Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Tensions were high in Jerusalem on Thursday, following days of clashes between police and Muslim worshipers protesting the metal detectors.

President Reuven Rivlin spoke by phone to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in a bid to help calm tensions surrounding the Temple Mount despite objections from the Israeli Foreign Ministry to involving Ankara in the dispute.

The call, reportedly at Erdogan’s request, came following nearly a week of unrest in Jerusalem in the wake of a deadly terror attack last Friday by three Arab Israeli assailants who emerged from the Temple Mount and fatally shot two Israeli police officers.

Israel then temporarily closed the site amid an investigation into the attack after police said the terrorists had stashed their weapons inside the compound, and reopened it two days later with new security measures in place, including metal detectors and cameras.

Police footage released Thursday showed how the weapons were smuggled onto the site with the assistance of a fourth, as-yet-unidentified man.

In the phone call, the president told Erdogan that Israel expected Turkey to condemn the terror attack, just as Israel condemns terror attacks in Turkey, “with the understanding that terror was terror wherever it took place; in Jerusalem, in Istanbul, or in Paris,” according to a press statement issued by his office.

Meanwhile, The Turkish leader urged Israel to remove the metal detectors as soon as possible.

“Within the framework of freedom of religion and worship there can be no impediment for Muslims” entering the holy site, the Anadolu news agency quoted Erdogan as telling Rivlin.

“Given the importance that Haram al-Sharif carries for the whole Islamic world, the metal detectors put in place by Israel should be removed in the shortest possible time and an end put to the tension,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan expressed “sadness” in the call to Rivlin over the “casualties in the incident.”

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