Your Licensed Professional Tour Guide and private, deluxe, air-conditioned vehicle will meet you at your cruise ship pier or at your hotel. You will begin your tour at the Galata Quarter, a region that remained almost completely Jewish for more than 400 years. Galata is known throughout the world by its huge tower, built in 1303 by the Genovese; your excursion includes a visit to the Galata Tower, which offers a great view of the city. The Office of the Chief Rabbinate is also located in Galata. There are currently about 20 synagogues in Istanbul. You would first visit the Neve Shalom Synagogue, the major synagogue of the city. Neve Shalom also houses the Turkish-Jewish Museum, which tells the story of the Jews’ journey to freedom and new life after escaping from the Spanish Inquisition. You will also visit the Ashkenazi Synagogue; dating from the nineteenth century, it is the only Ashkenazi synagogue in Istanbul, originally built by Austrian Jews.
After a lunch stop, you’ll be driven on to Balat, a Jewish working-class district on the shores of Kagithane River, or Halic (The Golden Horn), which absorbed many of the Sephardic settlers expelled from Spain after 1492. You will visit the recently restored Abrida (Achrida) Synagogue, which was originally built in the 15th Century and which is the earliest synagogue in Istanbul. The original 20-foot long oak bimah (teva), shaped either like Noah’s Ark, or like the Ottoman ship that brought the Sephardim from Spain to freedom in Turkey, can still be seen. Then, you could visit the Jewish Cemetery.
Note: We will need to have, in advance, passport copies of tour participants in order to obtain the special permissions needed for visiting the Synagogues in Istanbul. Photo by Ivan Mlinaric