Located on the shores of the Golden Horn, the bend in the river that separates the old and new parts of Europe, is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world! From Constantinople to the modern metropolis of Istanbul, from the Ottoman Empire to the modern Turkish state, Jews in this part of the world have often found refuge, built impressive centers of learning and up to today live side-by-side with Muslims and Christians in this multi-ethnic city.
In our tour of Istanbul we combine well-known secular sites with Jewish sites in an exciting comprehensive day package.
We will see the opulent Blue Mosque and spectacular Topkapı Palace. Also impressive is the Ottoman Baroque-style Ahrida Synagogue, built in the 15th century; it is the oldest of Istanbul’s 16 synagogues and has the remarkable feature of the Bima in the shape of the prow of a ship. The Bima is thought to symbolize either Noah’s Ark or the Ottoman ships that brought the Sephardic Jews from Spain to Turkey.
We will visit the historic Jewish district of Beyoğlu, where the great stone Galata Tower stands, once the high point of the Genoese fortified town. Here, one can visit the Ashkenazi Synagogue as well as the Neve Shalom Synagogue, the largest synagogue in all of Istanbul which today hosts most Jewish community events.
The Jewish cemetery in Ulus is home to a monument erected in memory of the terrorist attacks in 1986 and 2003. The Zulfaris Synagogue in the Karaköy district of Istanbul has been restored by the Quincentennial Foundation and reopened as the Jewish Museum of Turkey in 2001, focusing on 700 years of harmonious co-existence between Jews and Turks. In the courtyard is a sculpture by Nadia Arditti entitled The Soaring Flame as a monument in memory of the Turkish Jewish soldiers who lost their lives during World War I and during the War of Independence.
Other magnificent sites to be seen along the way are: The Or-Ahayim Jewish Hospital located in the Balat neighborhood, the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Underground Cistern, the St. Sophia Museum, the magnificent Bosphorus Strait, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market.
Come and discover a thriving metropolis between Orient and Occident which was for centuries a safe haven for Sephardic Jews. Turkey’s Jewish population today totals over 25,000. Find out about Jewish life and the role of Jews in Turkish society today.
Istanbul is also one of our many port destinations. If you plan to come to your guided tour(s) by cruise ship, we would be more than happy to arrange for your transfer and arrival!