Turkey Jews Worry about Next Attack; Terror Threat Shuts Synagogues

Article excerpt

Byline: Joshua Mitnick, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

ISTANBUL - The synagogues that serve Istanbul remained closed on the Sabbath last week, highlighting a fear of terrorist attacks that is driving the nation's Jewish community underground.

"The community is closing in on itself. It was already not a very open community," said Rifat Bali, who has written three books on the history of the Turkish Jews. "Now it is closing much more."

Some Jews said they were overwhelmed with expressions of compassion from Muslim neighbors after the explosions outside of the Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues Nov. 15.

But that doesn't erase a sense of vulnerability to anti-Semitic groups on the margins of Turkish society. The fear has made every stranger a potential threat.

The tragedy is compounded by a history that goes back five centuries, during which the Sephardic Jews of Turkey have flourished culturally. Today, the community numbers about 18,000.

On the first Saturday after the bombings, the streets around Neve Shalom and Beth Israel were closed to vehicles and pedestrians. Services at the 16 synagogues around the city were canceled and worshippers gathered in private homes.

The houses of worship remained closed Saturday, with no word on when they would reopen.

Meanwhile, community members injured in the bombings continued to recuperate in hospitals. The twin blasts killed at least 25 persons and injured hundreds, most of them Muslim passers-by. The two bombers also died.

A group of teenage friends socialized outside the hospital room where 19-year-old Nadim Yisrael was recuperating from leg injuries suffered in the Beth Israel bombing. They have been congregating here from morning until night for the past week, and plan to remain until Mr. Yisrael is discharged - a date that may be a month away.

"We hate reporters," blurted out one of Mr. Yisrael's comrades. Another, Lisse Azuz, a 22-year-old engineering student who has spent a decade in Israel, explained that the group was upset because the local press misquoted Mr. …