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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 11:55 GMT
Tense times for Turkey's Jews
By Stephen Cviic
BBC News

Turkey's small Jewish community has generally co-existed peacefully with the Muslim majority.

The country has a Jewish population of about 20,000 - a small community which, as elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East, has shrunk steadily since the state of Israel was created in the late 1940s.

Scene outside Neve Shalom synagogue
Turkey's Jews are not immune from rising tension in the Middle East
Turkey's Jews have not been immune from sectarian or political violence.

In 1986, the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul was attacked by gunmen believed to be Palestinians, who killed 22 worshippers during a Sabbath service.

Six years later, the synagogue was hit again, this time by a bomb planted by the Shia Hezbollah movement.

On that occasion, no-one was hurt.

Israel links

In general, however, the country's Jews have co-existed more peacefully with the Muslim majority than is the case elsewhere in the Middle East - and there are few, if any, reports of persecution.

This is helped by the fact that Turkey's Islamists tend to be relatively moderate.

In recent years, the government in Ankara has had good relations with Israel.

However, Turkey's geographical location means that it cannot be totally immune from the rising tension in the region.

It does have a violent Islamist guerrilla group called the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front, which says it carried out the latest bombing.

And there is, of course, also the possibility that foreign militants are operating in the country.

The BBC's Steve Bryant
"There were no warnings of any kind"

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