NEW YORK/ISTANBUL 5EJP)—Jewish groups condemned the violent demonstrations held outside the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul on Friday night. Islamist protesters rallied against the new security measures put in place at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
The protesters, Members of Turkish fascist group Alperen Ocaklari, hurled stones at the synagogue and kicked at the doors of the building. There were no damages.
The group’s leader, Kurşat Mican, is said to have close relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They arrived at the synagogue with the message that Turkish Jews would not be permitted to worship freely as long as Israel controls access to the Temple Mount site.
The group threatened further protests. “We can come here tomorrow just like we are standing here today,” one of its members warned. “You will not be able to get inside.”
The group’s district head, Kursat Mican, called Israel a “terrorist state” and said Israeli authorities have been oppressing people at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount for a long time, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported.
Turkey’s Chief Rabbinate expressed concern that more attacks will be forthcoming and urged the government to act. “We condemn the provocative act in front of the Neve Shalom synagogue and expect the authorities to do what is necessary,” it said in a statement. On Friday afternoon, the community announced that it had taken the “unprecedented step” of closing the synagogue for shabbat services on both Friday night and Saturday.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S.Lauder condemned the demonstrations.’’ World Jewish Congress profoundly condemns the hostile demonstrations that took place last night outside of the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul,” he said.
“We trust that that Turkish government and all relevant authorities will take the necessary precautions to protect the Jewish community and ensure its safety.”
“There is never any justification for threatening a synagogue and the Jews who come to pray there, particularly when it is a reaction to steps taken by Israel to protect the safety and ensure freedom of worship for Muslims at holy sites in Jerusalem,” said Stephen M. Greenberg, Chairman and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“President Erdogan has spoken of his commitment to protecting the rights of the Turkish Jewish community and we call on the Turkish government to take the needed precautions to continue to protect the synagogue and the Jewish community,” the added.
Earlier this week, in a phone call, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin asked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to condemn last Friday’s terrorist attack near the Temple Mount, which killed two Israeli policemen and prompted Israel to take security measures around the site.
“The president reminded Erdogan that after the terrorist attacks in Turkey, the State of Israel was quick to condemn those criminal acts. He said Israel expected to hear similar condemnation from Turkey, with the understanding that terrorism was terrorism wherever it took place; in Jerusalem, in Istanbul, or in Paris,” Rivlin’s office said.
The Temple Mount is a site that is “holy for all,” Rivlin told Erdogan as he explained that the attack in which the two Israeli policemen were killed, was “intolerable.” It “crossed a red line which endangered the ability of all of us to live together,” he said.
He assured Erdogan that Israel had maintained and would continue to maintain the status quo at the Temple Mount, in which only Muslims can pray there but Jews and Christians can visit.