By Janet Ekstract
İSTANBUL – İn a historic state visit to Türkiye, Israeli President Isaac Herzog told the press that he had an honest and open meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday in Ankara where the two, Herzog said, took significant steps to improve bilateral ties. Herzog commented: “I also told President Erdogan that members of different religions in the Middle East can live in peace and that we must live (together).” Herzog said that Erdogan also agreed that regional stability is crucial.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Herzog was in Istanbul to visit Turkish-Jewish leaders and the Turkish Jewish community at Neve Shalom synagogue where an elaborate ceremony replete with shofars, took place at 11:30 in the morning. On Twitter, Herzog said he was “moved to recite the Torah at Istanbul’s Neve Shalom Synagogue and to meet the Turkish Jewish community.” Türkiye’s Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva said that Herzog’s visit will leave deep traces in the Turkish Jewish community. In opening the ceremony at Neve Shalom, Herzog opened with a prayer for Ukrainian refugees: “On this special occasion, I want to pray with you for our brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Jewish community.” Herzog also lit candles in memory of Jews killed in the Neve Shalom synagogue attacks in 1986 and 2003.
Herzog said that his late father, the sixth president of Israel, President Chaim Herzog and his mother Aura Herzog had visited Neve Shalom Synagogue in 1992 for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews’from Spain and taking refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The Israeli president added that his grandfather and former Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog had come to Türkiye to try to save European Jews from the Nazis. He commented: “Sadly there have been hate incidents around the world targeting Jewish schools, supermarkets and businesses. I welcome authorities’ commitment to the safety and the freedom of the Jews of Türkiye.” The Israeli president lauded Türkiye for opening “its gates and hearts to the daughters and sons of the Jewish people who found a firm foothold here.”
The Israeli president said of his visit with Erdogan: “This is a key moment for relations between Israel and Türkiye.” Herzog added: “We won’t always agree on everything but I expect us to work together toward the stability, prosperity, peace and security of our region for the sake of all nations here. Good neighborly relations in the Eastern Med are important to us all.” Herzog’s historic visit comes after a decade of deterioration in bilateral relations between Türkiye and Israel. The Israeli president’s visit has been lauded by many as a giant leap toward thawing previously tense relations between Israel and Türkiye.