Istanbul Jewish Heritage Tours

Duration 5hr
The history of the Jews in Anatolia can be dated back to the 4th century B.C. from remnants of Jewish settlements uncovered in the Aegean region, where Jews lived and traded in the ancient cities of Ephesus, Sardis, Pergamon, and Smyrna. From the early 13th century on, the Ottomans actively encouraged Jewish immigration. Western European Jews received three invitations to settle in the Ottoman Empire. By 1477, Jewish households in Istanbul numbered 11% of the total. During the tragic days of World War II, Turkey managed to maintain its neutrality and served as a safe passage for many Jews fleeing the rest of Europe.
After meeting your professionally trained guide, you will set out on a short drive to the area of Ortaköy. This cosmopolitan area, with communities of Turks, Greeks, and Armenians is host to many different religions including Muslim, Jewish, Orthodox, and Christian. It is also popular for its art galleries, night clubs, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Here, you will visit the Etz-Ahayim (Life Tree) Synagogue. The building of the original synagogue is not well documented, but a sultan's edict dated 1825 gives consent to repair the Etz-Ahaim Synagogue which had been ruined by a fire. When the synagogue burned down again in 1941, only the marble Aron-ha-Kodesh remained. The current synagogue is built on the location of the previous site. You will have some free time in this beautiful area before you continue to your next site.
You will drive to the Galata district to visit the Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) Synagogue. When the Jewish population in the old Pera and Galata districts grew in the late 1930s, a Jewish primary school was torn down in order to build a new synagogue. The inauguration was in March of 1951. Neve Shalom is the central and largest Sephardic synagogue in Istanbul, open for services especially on Shabbat, High Holidays and for Bar Mitzvahs, funerals and weddings.
After your visit, you will drive to the Jewish Museum of Turkey (Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews.) The museum's mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, interpret and disseminate knowledge about the cultural heritage of the Turkish Jews. You will also have some time to browse in the library situated just on the ground floor of the museum where you will find interesting books referring to Jewish heritage in Turkey. You will then return to the pier.



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