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Turkey-Israel dialogue works 'miracle' for Istanbul’s Jews

Turkey’s Jews hold an unprecedented public celebration of Hanukkah amid renewed efforts to normalize Turkish-Israeli ties.

Turkey’s Jews marked a milestone Dec. 13 with a public celebration of the Hanukkah holiday, said to be the first in the republic's history after decades of Hanukkahs marked behind closed doors in synagogues or homes. Members of the tiny community took to the streets for the ceremony, as the tradition requires, lighting thousands of candles at Istanbul’s Ortakoy Square.

The call for the public celebration had come from Ivo Molinas, the editor-in-chief of Shalom, the newspaper of Turkey’s Jewish community. In remarks to Al-Monitor, Molinas said how he would look yearningly at images of Hanukkah celebrations held in city squares across Europe and the United States. “I shared those pictures on Twitter and asked why we shouldn’t do the same in Istanbul,” he said. “The reactions were positive, and then we had talks with the mayor. Due to reservations about security, we did not make an announcement [in advance] and instead sent SMS [text] messages to community members shortly before the celebration.”

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