These candles will be lit every year for Turkey’s unity and solidarity”

We talked with Besiktas Mayor Murat Hazinedar, one of the key enablers of the first Public Hanukkah Celebration in the history of Turkish Republic in Istanbul, Ortakoy Square about the significance of the event. Mayor Hazinedar saying that “Turkish Jews are the owners of this country, too” gave his word that the light of unity, the candles of Hanukkah will be lit in the coming years, as well.

These candles will be lit every year for Turkey’s unity and solidarity”

What message did you want to give with the Public Hanukkah Celebration? 

While giving certain religious messages, our main goal was this: In our country, from time to time, we see people who do politics through agitating and provoking Muslims. Against those who use Islam as a tool, we as Muslims possessing the true values of Islam wanted to give a message. We wanted to give a message to our Muslim citizens, while carefully trying to preserve and respect their sensitivities, because we are all a part of the “whole”. We live together, we spend our lives together. This is the reason why life in Besiktas and Istanbul is valuable. That’s why each one of us is valuable. Every human created by God is valuable. They all have a purpose. Indeed, accepting that all living creatures are valuable and that they enrich life is an integral part of faith. Thinking that God had created everything randomly as a result of coincidence would take us to a very bad place, metaphysically. I am trying to enhance this wealth. Both Besiktas and the people of Besiktas gave me this chance.  Through this public celebration, we were able to give a message from Besiktas to Istanbul, from Istanbul to Turkey and from Turkey to the whole world. 

Sometimes, there are some adverse events taking place due to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We always reserve our right to criticize what goes on between those two states, however expressing our criticism with an Anti-Semitic approach is a true crime against humanity. Therefore, at this point, I do not agree with Turkey’s general politics which is to emphasize this issue from time to time.  At this point, everyone needs to keep in mind that our Jewish, Greek, Armenian, Christian citizens are all a part of us. Anything can happen within a family, there may be some adversities, disagreements. If you recall, at the speech I gave at the Public Hanukkah Celebration, I talked about facing the mistakes of the past. These mistakes are the mistakes made by people who exploit the current situation, abuse their political power and are more royalist than the king. These mistakes sometimes transform into systemic mistakes.  In other words, they become a system. But, make no mistake, this state and the people who run it had sometimes tormented not only Jews and Armenians, but also people who they accepted as theirs. 

I am from Fatsa (in city of Ordu). Fatsa’s Meat and Fish Authority was the center of notorious September 12 tortures. They never asked the people they were torturing whether they were Turkish or Circassian even though most of them were Turkish. Thus, in this country there is only one issue where the state is being just: Tormenting people. The country has been very just when it came to tormenting Kurds, Turks and Circassians... No one can say that only Kurds were tormented… The state from time to time torments its citizens at the tax office, at the city hall by treating them poorly. So, while reckoning with the past and self-criticizing, our approach should not be based on a motive of revenge, otherwise we lose the future. People who fight the past and bring the past to the present will make the future miserable for us. We don’t want misery, we want freedom. We want freedom in every field including our faith and culture…

Frankly speaking, when we first started off, I was not quite aware how deeply our Jewish citizens were concerned by the jargon used due to Turkey’s relationship with the state of Israel. It is so great to have organized such an event under my leadership with the participation of the Government where Jews who had suspicions about their presence and their future in this country had the chance to practice and express their faith, freely. Participation of Government officials significantly helped eliminating our Jewish citizens’ concerns and suspicions regarding their presence in this country. One of the most important messages we gave at the event was to properly evaluate what happened in the past and what is happening today. Another important message in which we used Islamic motifs and themes was the message we gave specifically to our Muslim citizens where we talked about our future. 

Those candles were lit for Turkey’s unity and solidarity and from now on, (inshallah) will continue to be lit every year for Turkey’s unity and solidarity. The more we stick together, the more we grow. We are beautiful, together; we are valuable, together; we are Turkey, together…

What I value the most in my life is to receive people’s blessings and I believe the blessings I had received at that event are very significant. Life will go on and as we go along with it, we will be trying to receive more blessings (inshallah).

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