There is a great deal of discussion in today’s news regarding the recent conciliation between Israel and Turkey. Behind the news is the fact that the agreement is part of a process that dates back to the days of the old testament.

The ancient Israelites were known to have imported honeybees from what is modern-day Turkey. A team of Israeli archaeologists recently found thirty intact hives made of straw and unbaked clay, with evidence that there had been over 100-200 more, on the site of the joint Israelite-Canaanite city of Tel Rehov. According to some evidence, the bees were probably imported from the region after the locals proved easier to handle than the Israeli bees, which had proved to be extremely aggressive. 
The history of the Jews in Turkey encompasses 2,400 years. There have been Jewish communities in Asia since at least the 5th century BCE, and many Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled from Spain were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire in the late 15th century. Despite emigration during the 20th century, modern-day Turkey only has  a small Jewish population. I have several friends in Haifa who immigrated to Israel from Turkey at various times since 1948.

Turkey was the first Muslim country to  recognize the State of Israel in 1948. Turkey and Israel have closely cooperated militarily and economically. The formal diplomatic relations between the nations has seen many ups and downs. However, there is a strong social-cultural bond between the peoples that continues to thrive and even strengthen.

I write this post at a Turkish café in the port area of my home city of Haifa. The “Namal” is a bustling area with ships both commercial and passenger bound for their destinations throughout the world. The owner of the café immigrated to Haifa from Turkey in 1970. We talked about the massage energy discoveries and proposed energy pipeline to connect the nations of this region. Eli still speaks the ancient language of Ladino which he learned in “The Old Country”. We enjoyed my favorite Turkish contribution to Israel  borekas and a  strong cup of sweet Turkish coffee. 

Borekas are a family of baked or fried filled pastries made of a thin flaky dough known as phyllo (or yufka). It can be filled with cheese, often feta, sirene or kaşar; minced meat, or vegetables. It was most probably invented in what is now Modern Turkey, in the Anatolian Provinces of the Ottoman Empire in its early era, to become a popular element of Ottoman cuisine. A börek may be prepared in a large pan and cut into portions after baking, or as individual pastries. The top of the börek is often sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Israel and Turkey trumpeted their recent agreement to restore full diplomatic ties after a six-year hiatus, with the Israelis welcoming the economic benefits and the Turkish emphasizing the easing of the embargo on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and its humane benefits. Many people believe that Turkey could serve to bridge the gap between Israel and the Palestinians. We were discussing this at my Talmud group this week, my teacher Brume made the statement that any negotiations that may have a positive impact are worth the effort.

Speaking to reporters in Rome after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi} Netanyahu said the agreement would boost Israel’s economy through natural-gas exports and help maintain the country’s long-term security. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the deal would allow his country to send humanitarian aid to Gaza with plans to build a 200 bed hospital, new power plants, residential buildings and other infrastructure. Mr. Kerry welcomed the deal. “It’s a positive step we wanted,” he said. “We hope it’s the beginning of others.”

How will this agreement affect my city of Haifa and the region? My neighbor Carlos is looking forward to increased prosperity as Haifa is located just east of the energy deposits He is a cab driver and expects increased trade as is my other neighbor Simon who a construction foreman. With the expected influx of foreign workers, this can only strengthen the economy and bring the benefits associated with this to my home town.

The hope that one day people in this region will live together in peace is widely discussed in the media. Conflict, very sadly, has been the nature of humanity since the beginning of time. Will political leaders and agreements bring Shalom? I have no idea. My strong conviction is that the improvement of social, cultural, and spiritual bonds between nations holds the best answer. Food of course is the universal peacemaker. I myself, am looking to more Turkish restaurants!

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