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November 6, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 6, 2009

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 06, 2009 First person by Jim Shipley A few weeks ago, Rachel and I returned from a twelve-day odyssey in the nation of Tur- key. Things I did not know: Istanbul (NotConstantinople~ it's Istanbul, not Constanti- nople-why did Constanti- nople get the works? That's nobody's business but the Turks') is the fourth largest city in the world. (If you rank them by population of the cities proper rather than by "entire urban agglomerations.) Its population is between 14 and 20 million. It is the most expensive city in the world in which to live. Of the 20 million in its population, 14 million live in Asia, six in Europe. You cross from one " continent to the other on a lovely suspension bridge over the Bosphorus. The city has inyucho/flickr The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. been continuously inhabited for more than six thousand years. Turkey is 99 percent Mus- lim, yet is a totally secular nation. We saw a grouping of a Catholic church, a mosque and a synagogue sharing the same garden. There seems to be little if any discrimina- tion and no, repeat no, anti- American feeling. ~)i .i : i brewbooks/flickr The Golden Horn is an inlet of the Bosphorus dividing the city of Istanbul and forming a natural harbor. Turkey's archaeological past can be tracked back to the Hittites and before. Places I thought were in Greece are in Turkey, like Troy and the site of the Temple of Apollo. We saw a Roman carving with a menorah on it, Must be the same idea as the one in the Arch of Titus in Rome. And there we stood, Rachel and I, two proud Jews looking at the ancient, corrupt and extinct Roman Empire. But we, the Jews, are still here. Go figure. Our daughter Tracy flew from Jerusalem to join us for a few days. It's a two and half hour flight from Ben-Gurion. The only airline servicing Israel and Turkey is Turkish Airlines. Tracy said it is deluxe service all the way. Before the increase in tensions between the two countries last month, thousands of Israelis flocked to Turkey every year. They would go for the history, the climate, the charm of the Turkish people and incredibly cheap package rates. Take out a map and un- derstand the position Turkey holds in the world. It is bor- dered by (starting from the west) Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Great neighborhood. We met Israelis besides Tracy, toured with a batch of Australians, saw Russians, Slavs, Spaniards, South and Central Americans, French, Danish and interestingly, darn few Americans. If tour- ism is taking a lick here in Florida, it obviously is not in Turkey. Planes were full in and out and the regular tourist attractions (Troy, the Underground Cities, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi) all were absolutely packed Okay, so we were in a 99 percent Muslim nation. We saw a country secular by law which functions, and functions well. We saw little military, butwe were told that they are indeed there. There is fighting going on to the east, with the Kurdish PKK Rebels. They have some differences of opinion as to an example, the "Armenian Genocide." They say, yes, Armenians were killed in the first World War. As were Turks. Many of them civilians and many by Armenian army units. Was there some payback? They say, probably. But interestingly, none of the discussion is rife with propaganda. Everything is a matter of discussion. Almost Serenseti/flickr The Asian side of the Bosphorus. Talmudic. As to Jews and Israel, the Turkish form of Islam, somewhat Sufi in its approach, respects the Jews and their contribution to what became Islam. There is huge trade with Israel well beyond tourism. There are exchanges of military hardware, both ways. the city for vacation and to pray. Not this eve of Rosh HaShanah. Itwas closed. But at least we tried. In 2003, two synagogues in Istanbul were the targets of suicide bombers who crashed explosive-laden trucks into the buildings, killing more than 20 people. While we were in Turkey, six more people were arrested for involvement. Turkey claims that the perpetrators were" all al-Qaida members. The government is tireless in its approach and its dedication to keep its land peaceful and to protect all its citizens. Itwas wonderful for 12 days not to read an American paper, not to turn on CNN or God forbid, FOX News. And, when we returned, theworldwas still pretty much the way we left it. When you ride a mini-bus for 1,500 miles, walk countless miles, climb countess steps up mountains and into ancient buildings, you see and feel the impact of history. xiquinhosilva/flickr Topkapi Palace, Istanbul Eve ofRosh HaShanah, we arrived in the city of Can- nakale, a lovely historic site on the Aegean Sea. We had Googled around to find out where we would be on that night. We found that the oldest synagogue in Turkey is in Cannakale. However, the Jews have moved away. During WWII, Turkey took in many Jews fleeing Germany and Poland. But the Jews of Cannakale have moved on to Istanbul, Ankara, the U.S., Israel and beyond. We had read that the synagogue opens on High Holy Days as Jews return to Empires come and em- pires go. Peoples flourish, diminish and mostly dis- appear. The Turks are an amalgam of peoples from the far reaches of Europe and Asia. They have had their independence and democracy only since 1923. They are fiercely protective of democratic rights. Get out and travel. You will find the world is made up mostly of decent folks. Avoid the crazies. Wash your hands and be careful where you eat. Learn about this delicate planet. Enjoy it while you can. Taxes and laws are ever-changing. Is your financial advisor up-to-date? Is~your money earning up to its potential? 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Asset Management Partners is an affiliate of NFP Secures, tnc,, and a subsidiary ot N~I pJnandal Partners, Corp., the parent company of NFP Securities, Inc. *NFP Secures, Inc. and Asset Management ~fs do First person by Jim Shipley Rachel and I had just returned from our 12-day odyssey to Turkey, covering more than 2,000 miles in the country, including 1,500 on a minibus with three other couples from Australia, of all places. We enjoyed learning about the people, their history, and their relationship with the Jews and with Israel. We get home and less than three weeks later, the Turkish Prime Minister decides to put Israel under the bus. What's with Turkey? On top of that, we have a colleague who negotiates the sale of Israeli military tech- nology to Turkey and uses Turkey to transship Israeli materiel to other countries. Turkey has welcomed more than 50,000 Israeli tourists over the past year and a half. We needed a visa to enter the country. Our daughter Tracy, who flew in to meet us from Israel, did not. What's with Turkey? Once the shock wore off of hearing that the Prime Minis- ter of Turkey was excoriating Israel over it treatment of the Palestinians in the recent Gaza war and of pulling Israel out of the recent military ex- ercises in Turkey, I then hear of a public television drama in Turkey that shows Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian babies. What's with Turkey? It is understood that Tur- key lives in a dangerous neighborhood. They border with (in geographical order) Russia, Chechnya, Azer- baijan, Armenia, Iraq, Iran and Syria. It's like living in a neighborhood of pit bulls. You don'twant to antagonize them if possible. For a number of years Turkey depended on Israel for a vast array of military equipment and technology. They were considered Israel's staunchest ally in that part of the world. But with the new government that was elected in a close and bitter election less than two years ago, Prime Minister Erdogan rules with a narrow majority. Turkey on page 23A