Turkish Jews search for answers
A suicide attack against two Istanbul synagogues this weekend killed 25 and wounded more than 300.
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Indeed, Turkish officials say that the bombings have links to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, and that the men suspected of carrying out the bombings had training abroad. According to reports in major Turkish newspapers, Turkish officials have been tracing these links ever since a notebook containing suicide bombing instructions in Turkish was found in an abandoned Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan not long after the fall of the Taliban two years ago.Skip to next paragraph
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"It has emerged that there is a link with an organization in Afghanistan in terms of belief and understanding," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters. "A trail has been found and relationships have emerged."
Turkish media also carried the names and photographs of alleged Turkish militants who were said to have come from southeastern Turkey. Three of the four trained in Pakistan and Iran, Reuters reported, and one had fought in predominantly Muslim Chechnya against Russian troops.
Many members of the Turkish Jewish community are descendants of ancestors who fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, which demanded mass conversion to Catholicism. The Ottoman sultanate welcomed Jews here, building the Turkish empire's reputation for diversity and tolerance.
More accurately, however, this is a community that historians say dates at least to the Byzantine Empire, and possibly earlier. Today, there are an estimated 25,000 Jews across the country, although experts say the real numbers have been dwindling due to assimilation, intermarriage, low birthrates, and emigration other countries.
Rifat Bali, a historian of the community, says that its leaders have sought to downplay its shrinking numbers and other problems. He points to a largely marginalized society that - as if according to unwritten rules - is expected to stay out of politics and public life. "The Turkish Jews have not been fully integrated or Turkified, and they have had to limit their expectations. A kid grows up knowing he is never going to become a government minister, so no one tries, and the same goes for positions in the military," says Mr. Bali.
As Turkey's chief rabbi, Isak Haleva, spoke at Tuesday's funeral, he invoked the country's founding father, Kemal Ataturk, quoting his motto calling for "Peace inside our borders, peace in the world." Said Haleva: "We can't think of any religion that would support such actions. From now on, we will pray for anyone who goes out to pray."
In the masses of mourners, a pretty young woman stood with tears running down her face and a picture of a Berta Ozdogan - one of the victims - pinned to her white jacket. Betul Basol, a Muslim, cried for her co-worker, a Jewish woman who was four months pregnant - and married to a Muslim man.
The couple were killed on Saturday as they walked into the Bar Mitzvah celebration. "They were very happy. For us, it doesn't matter which religion you are," says Ms. Basol. "It's a good thing neither of them left the other behind."
The rain came down harder, and Rayna looked up at the sky. "You see the weather?" she asks. "That's because God is crying."