Turkey is a land with a timeless history (over 10,000 years) best described as a mosaic.
Turkey is the only country that is located on two continents, Europe and Asia, and Istanbul.
The only city in the world located on two continents, Istanbul has been the capital of three great empires, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman for more than 2000 years.â€¨ Part of Turkey was a wedding gift from Mark Anthony to Cleopatra.
The cultural gifts that have flowed out of this colorful land are plentiful.
One of Turkeyâ€™s greatest gifts to the world was yogurt, the queen of dairy products, now found everywhere in abundance.
Turkey provides 70% of the world's hazelnuts; the nut in your chocolate bar was most probably grown in Turkey. â€¨Turkey introduced coffee to Europe (we would not be drinking lattes if they hadnâ€™t).
The Turks gave the Dutch their famous tulips that are now forever associated with the Netherlands.
THE JEWISH CONNECTION
From Biblical times, the Jews lived and flourished in Turkey. Under Turkish rule, the Jews flourished and functioned. Modern Turkey is filled with Old Testament history. Mount Ararat, where Noah and his family ran aground after the deluge. According to Genesis (10), the sons of Noah and their descendants covered most of Anatolia, leaving descendants between Persia, Syria and most of Eastern Anatolia, and along the coasts of North Africa and into the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Abraham, the earliest of the Hebrew patriarchs, is believed by Muslims to have been born in a cave in today's Urfa and almost certainly lived in Harran in the 18th century BC. Later it was a refuge for Jacob when he was escaping from Esau; Jacob's well is still there today. There are ruins from synagogues dating back to about 2500 BCE.
In 1324 after the Ottomans captured Bursa from the Byzantines they found an oppressed Jewish community under Byzantine rule. The Jews welcomed the Ottomans as saviors. Sultan Orhan gave them permission to build the Etz-ha-Hayyim (Tree of Life) synagogue which was in use until recent times. Over the centuries an increasing number of European Jews, escaping persecution in their native countries settled in the Ottoman Empire.
During the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, Turkey absorbed streams of Jews from France (under Charles VI in 1394), Italy (Sicily - early 15th), Hungary (1376), Saolnika (then under Venetian control), Bavaria (1470 under Ludwig X), and Poland as each of these countries in turn or simultaneously expelled its Jews. The Ottoman regime recognized the value of the Jews to Turkeyâ€™s economic development. The Jews were allowed to live anywhere in the sultanate.
From the second half of the 14th on, Adrianople was the center the center of Jewish life in Turkey. Thousands of students from neighboring countries came to study at the yeshiva there. In the early 15th century Rabbi Yitzhak Sarfati of Edirne sent a letter to Jewish communities in Europe entreating them to leave behind the torments they had endured under Christianity "and seek safety and prosperity in Turkey" as part of their path back to the Holy Land.
In the summer of 1492, under the reign of the enlightened Sultan Beyazid II, 150,000 Sephardim escaped death or conversion under the Edict of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain. They were officially welcomed into the Ottoman Empire and settled in Istanbul, Edirne, Bursa, and many other cities, receiving land, tax exemptions, encouragement, and assistance from the government. "The Catholic monarch Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise" Bayazid II reportedly said, "since he impoverished his country with the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched ours." For about the next 500 years the Jews enjoyed a â€śGolden Ageâ€ť under Ottoman Rule.