JERUSALEM (JTA) – A delegation from Israel’s Defense Ministry visited Turkey to dedicate a student village built with Israeli assistance.
The student village in eastern Turkey’s Van district was built from 130 prefabricated buildings sent by Israel as a humanitarian gesture following an earthquake three months ago that left some 600 dead and thousands homeless.
More than 800 students will live in the structures.
“After the harsh quake that occurred here, you came, you the Israelis, with a lot of material and a lot of willingness to help. And for this I thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart,” said district Vice Governor Ahmet Kazankyeh, according to a statement from the Israeli Defense Ministry. “You are our true friends, and the proof is what we see here. Only true friends can help so quickly and with such concern for their partners.”
In the immediate aftermath of the 7.2 magnitude quake, Turkey refused Israel’s assistance and turned down aid from other countries. But Ankara later accepted international help in housing the thousands of Turks who were without shelter. In addition to the housing units, Israel sent inflatable mattresses and blankets.
Relations between the former allies have been nearly nonexistent following an Israeli naval commando raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010 that left nine Turkish nationals dead, including one dual Turkish-American citizen.
Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology for the deaths and compensation to the victims’ families. Israel has offered its "regret" for the deaths, and has said that its commandos fired in self-defense. Relations had been deteriorating since the 2008-09 Gaza war.