Posted on February 21, 2018 by Gavi Bernat-Kunin Kornsgold
After arriving in Istanbul, our first stop was a synagogue. This seemed so fitting as we had left Israel, a center of Jewish life and Judaism to be in the center of another Jewish community. This synagogue was located on the Asian side of turkey and was over 100 year old. As we entered, we were surrounded by ornamentations, colors, beautiful low hanging chandeliers, and an exquisite ark made from wood and decorated with mother of pearl.
As we opened the ark and took out a sefer Torah, we sang our first song of the trip: etz chaim chai. This song felt like a nice introduction to learning about the life and vibrancy of a Jewish community similar but unique to the Jerusalem we came from.
We proceeded to learn about the history of the synagogue, read a few lines from the Torah, and sing once more. After speaking for a few moments with a local Jewish man working at the shul, we moved along with our day.
Istanbul contains more mosques than any other city in the world. As we drove around throughout the day, Levi pointed out the architecture of the surrounding mosques with their double or symmetrical minarets. So, naturally, after our visit to the synagogue, our next stop was a small local mosque. We spent a brief amount of time there, quietly observing those stopping their day to pray, and hearing about the centuries old mosque.
We then walked a few minutes to an area similar to the Israeli shuk, with stores and cafes where we could drink Turkish tea and coffee, watch the locals going about their day, and stare at the Bosporus. With this we concluded day one of trip. We crossed the Bosporus to the European side of turkey, and all connected with our host families. It was a day of introduction as we got a sense of the large, busy, and rich city of Istanbul.