In the summer of 1966, a round trip ticket, from Israel to Athens to Istanbul back to Israel cost $77.00 per person, so my girlfriend and I took a two-week Israeli vacation package during University recess.
On the bus ride from the airport to Istanbul, the tour guide was asked how many Jews still lived in Turkey. He answered, "About 30,000; most of them in Istanbul". This presented an opportunity for a little humor from me as I also knew how many students there were in Istanbul University. I asked him, "By the way, how many students are enrolled at the University?" He replied, "Oh, also 30,000." I then said, "I guess we know how many Jews attend University." All the Israelis laughed while the guide looked rather non-plussed.
Interestingly, the number of Jews in Turkey has not changed much in the past 40 years standing at about 26,000 today. Despite a number of churches and synagogues, Turkey with 71 million souls is 99.8% Muslim. That leaves about 114,000 Christians. All Islamic countries eventually turn 100% Muslim as Turkey eventually will. So much for tolerance.
I enjoyed my visit back then but it would have been more enjoyable if there were fewer Turks. The people are not a good looking race but that is my own parochial view. Perhaps if I spent more time with camels and goats I would find Turks more attractive. I should mention that the lighter skinned Turkish women are an exception to this rule, probably due to intermarriage with Europeans.
Interestingly, at the Istanbul Grand Bazaar, thousands of the shops were run by Jews. I have not been there since so I do not know if it is still true today. However, be prepared to bargain for everything, not just in the Bazaar, but in getting taxi rides, shoe shines, or even buying a newspaper. I usually cut in half whatever they were asking for. If the cab ride was 12 Turkish pounds (in 1966) I offered 6. And watch for pickpockets and scam artists.
The Pope, who angered many Muslims in September with a speech they took as an insult, will begin his first official visit to a Muslim country tomorrow. Many Muslims believe that Pope Benedict was chosen precisely because he is against Islam and because the Cardinals were concerned Islam is spreading too fast in Europe.
Photo: Supporters of the pro-Islamic Felicity Party wave Turkish and party flags during an anti-pope rally in Istanbul, Turkey last Sunday. Thousands of Turks gathered in an Istanbul square to protest against the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI. The demonstration, organized by the pro-Islamic Felicity Party, was the largest anti-pope protest in advance of Benedict's arrival.
Youths wearing headbands with Islamic slogans such as 'No to an alliance of crusaders, let the pope not come!', beating drums and waving red-and-white Turkish flags chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and "Pope don't come" at the rally. You may also wonder why there are no men in the two photos here. Actually there are male demonstrators only they are not allowed to mingle with the women lest their bodies touch. If that happens, no doubt the woman will have to be stoned or killed because she will have been somehow defiled. Islam is so respectful of women, not like the decadent West where a slut is allowed to live a normal life even if non-relatives see her face or boobies.
Spero News, Youth views on Pope's historic visit
Some Turks fear the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, could one day form a sort of Vatican in Istanbul -- a state within a state.
Nationalists fear such a development would lead to further calls for independence among other minorities, such as the Kurds, and so they will be analyzing the Pope’s words for anything that looks like special support for the patriarch.
A little Muslim Humor:
Q. What do you call a beautiful woman in Turkey?
A. A tourist.