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Shelter of humanity: Turkey's history with Jewish refugees | Daily Sabah |

Anatolia has always been a safe haven for people who were forced to leave their homelands. This is especially so in Istanbul, which is a cultural melting pot. For centuries, a variety of ethnic groups have lived together in Istanbul in peace and harmony.

Some ethnic groups like, Jews, Hungarians, Polish, and Russians came to Istanbul as refugees. The first known refugee wave from the Iberian Peninsula took place after Spaniard sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella completed the Catholic Reconquista following the Battle of Granada.

They issued the "Alhambra Decree," which ordered the expulsion of practicing Sephardic Jews from the entire Iberian Peninsula. The then Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II (1481-1512), who was the successor of Mehmet the Conqueror, issued a formal invitation to the thousands of Jews that were expelled and in search of a safe haven.

Sultan Bayezid II also sent out the Ottoman navy under the command of Kemal Reis to Spain in 1492 to save the Sephardic Jews. Thousands of Sephardic Jews fled to Ottoman-ruled cities such as Istanbul, Sarajevo, Salonika, Adrianople, Damascus and Jerusalem. He granted the refugees permission to settle in the Ottoman Empire and become Ottoman citizens.

Even through the exact number of refugees is unknown; the Jewish community in Istanbul reached around 30,000 with 44 synagogues built over time. In their newfound home the migrated Sephardic Jews met various needs of the society in the Ottoman Empire. The newcomers contributed much to the rising power of the Ottoman Empire by introducing new ideas, methods and craftsmanship.

The Alhambra Decree was revoked 476 years later on Monday, December 16, 1968, when the Spanish government finally rendered the statute without effect.

Anatolia: Traces Jewish history back to the 4th century | Jewish Virtual Library |

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Sun Jul 16th, 2023 at 10:27:49 AM EST


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