The Dönmeh are Fighting for their Home

Turkey was for most of the 20th century indirectly ruled by the Crypto-Jewish Dönmeh community through the Derin Devlet (Turkish for ‘Deep State’). The past two decades have however seen an intense power struggle between the Crypto-Islamist AKP (the Turkish branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Derin Devlet. 

Due to the centuries-old canard that the 17th century founding generation of the Dönmeh Jewish community purportedly converted to Islam (what happened is that they were initiated into the Bektashi order, a denomination of Median Judaism) has the Dönmeh Jewish community since 1948 been denied the right to immigrate to Israel. This means that the Dönmeh community has their back against the wall. They would all face summary execution as dangerous Jewish traitors under Islamist rule and have literally nowhere else to go.

Therefore is it urgent that Dönmeh Jews be allowed to make Aliyah (immigrate to Israel) and that otherwise all Dönmeh Jews who so request be granted Israeli passports. The Jewish people have long failed the Dönmeh community due to this centuries old canard of alleged Islamic conversion. While the Dönmeh community only number in the tens of thousands they are nevertheless in danger of genocide should Turkey fully fall into the hands of the Islamists. The indifference of most Israelis to the fate of the Dönmeh Jewish community is shocking. As things stand now, Dönmeh Jews have no other country than Turkey. They have no other country to move or flee to.

It is urgent that Israel broadens its conception of Jewish national interests to include the interests of the Dönmeh Jewish community in Turkey. Turkey was for most of the 20th century firmly in the hands of the Dönmeh community through the secularist Derin Devlet as founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, born in 1881 in the then Dönmeh home city of Thessaloniki, in what is now Greece. Restoring full Dönmeh control over Turkey should be articulated as an essential Israeli national interest indeed. 

Building solidarity between Turkish Dönmeh Jews and Israeli Rabbinic Jews is an urgent matter and discreetly granting immigration rights to Israel should therefore be a priority since that would be a most concrete expression of that mutual solidarity. This is furthermore a very important issue to the Dönmeh Jewish community. 

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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