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Jews of the Oldest Community in Turkey Arrive in Istanbul En Route to Israel

The first group of Israel-bound emigrants from the Jewish community of Van–a town in easternmost Turkey–have arrived here. They are being sheltered, together with Kurdish Jews from western Iran, in a synagogue here while awaiting transportation to the Jewish state.

The Jewish community of Van is one of the oldest in the world. Its history dates back to the period prior to destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Numbering about 250 persons, the Van community maintained no contact with other Jewish communities in Turkey. In addition to Turkish and Kurdish, the Jews of Van speak Aramaic, which they consider their mother tongue. They also use Hebrew letters in their correspondence and carefully observe all traditional Jewish practices. The synagogue in Van contains a valuable library of ancient books, manuscripts and scrolls.

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