Eli Gezici immigrated to Israel with his family in the 1960s from Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa province. Living there for the last 60 years, he has blended into society. But his love for Turkey, Cig Kofte (raw meatballs) and local folk songs has not wained.

He enjoys the Turkish delicacy and traditional music with other members of the Jewish community in West Jerusalem.

Running a kebab shop on Jaffa street for the last 46 years, Gezici reminisces the times he spent in Sanliurfa’s Siverek district, the land he was born and raised.

He was among the 100 families who left the district. Migration continued for many years, and it is now estimated that several hundred Jewish families of Turkish origin are now settled in Israel.

Even decades after leaving Turkey, the Jews of Sanliurfa come together to enjoy the folk culture. “Raw meatballs are made in every house once or twice a week,” he told Anadolu Agency. “We cook all Sanliurfa special dishes at home.”

Recalling his love for Turkey, he said: “In 1961, the Turkish national football team came to play against Israel. I was at the stadium, sitting among Israeli fans. But when Turkey scored a goal, I stood up to cheer for the team.”

He shared that in Israel there are two synagogues for Jews from Turkey’s Sanliurfa and Diyarbakir provinces.

Gezeci said although his children do not know the language much, his liking for Turkish culture is very much alive. During months-long coronavirus restrictions, he spent most of his time at home watching Turkish channels. “Every night I watch the news, and listen to our songs.”

He visited his home town six years ago and said it seemed nothing had changed in the neighborhood, where his father ran a dress shop. “Our house remains the same… only some new buildings have been built around it,” he said. “I still have Muslim Turkish friends in Sanliurfa. Give my regards to them. I love and miss Sanliurfa.”

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

Israeli Jew of Turkish origin reminisces bygone days

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