Let My People Go

Iran does not permit its rabbinically Jewish minority to emigrate to Israel and would not permit its millions of Yarsanis and other Median Jews (Alevis, Yezidis and Zoroastrians in addition to the Mandaeans who are pre-Israelite Jews) to do so either. It is unclear how Muslim and ex-Muslim Kurdish nationalists (including the the Kurdistan Region Government, the KRG) would look at the prospects of a third of all Kurds emigrating to Israel as Kurdish Muslims themselves are descendants of Median Jews who were coercively Islamized as reflected in the intrinsically Alevi-Bektashi, Yezidi and Yarsani folk culture of Muslim Kurds. The real question however is the attitude of the Turkish government. The vast majority of Median Jews in the Middle East are Alevis living in Turkey and Alevis are estimated to make up some 10-20% percent of the population of Turkey. There are no precise statistics available. Turkey places no hurdles in the way of emigration to Israel for its rabbinically Jewish minority but will it take the same lenient and liberal attitude with regard to Alevis, Bektashis, Yezidis, Alawites and Dönmeh in Turkey?

The Republic of Turkey is an important country for Israel and it is essential that  international diplomacy will endeavor to discreetly persuade the Turkish leadership including crucially President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to permit the mass exodus of Median Jewry to Israel. It is essential that the US government, the European Union, the UK government, the government of Japan and others engage the Turkish government in discreet and friendly, sustained diplomatic conversation to persuade the Turkish government of the wisdom of letting Alevis and other Median Jews emigrate to the Jewish state. Turkey would become more homogenous and more Islamic with Alevis leaving en masse for Israel and this exodus would crucially bring peace to the Palestinians as the West Bank would be enfranchised by Israel and Gaza enfranchised by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Turkey is in a position to make a crucial contribution to peace while deepening and enhancing the Islamic character of Turkey. The matter is still so sensitive that it has probably not so far been brought up in conversation between Turkish and Israeli diplomats although both sides are obviously keenly aware of the matter. The international community may not get immediate results (the Turkish government officially claims that Alevis are Muslims) but will need to engage in sustained diplomatic conversations in order to eventually make sure that no obstacles are placed on Median Jewish emigration to Israel. Let my people go.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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