Libel Debunked: Israeli Rescue Team in Turkey Stole Historical Manuscript

Anti-Israel propaganda outlet WAFA News claims an Israeli rescue team dispatched to Turley stole a Book of Esther manuscript.

The theft of a historical manuscript by the Israeli rescue team dispatched to Turkey to help those affected by the earthquake sparked an ethical scandal after pictures and videos showed the team members displaying the stolen manuscript.

The Turkish “Haber7” website said it turned out that the Israeli search and rescue team secretly took the Book of Esther from Turkey’s earthquake-damaged Antakya Synagogue in Hatay province before the theft was discovered and the manuscript returned to Turkey.

The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism confirmed yesterday that the Anti-Smuggling Department has begun an investigation into this case and that it will be dealt with in coordination with the Turkish Foreign Ministry after which the appropriate decisions will be taken.

It stressed in a series of tweets on its official Twitter account that it is committed to preserving the heritage manuscripts of all cultures and religions.

The Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, last week published a news item confirming that the Israeli search and rescue team dispatched to Turkey after the earthquakes had moved the historical Esther scrolls recovered from the Antakya synagogue to Israel.

It published pictures of a man it said was a member of the Israeli team holding the scrolls.

Quds News Network went one step further, claiming our rescue teams were really only there to smuggle historical manuscripts! (hat tip: Uri)

Of course, the truth is something else entirely.

As Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reports:

The head of an Israeli rescue team has handed over the historical Book of Esther, which the team carefully removed from the earthquake-hit Antakya Synagogue and carried to their country, to the Jewish Chief Rabbinate in Istanbul.

Israeli media reported that the historical scrolls of the Book of Esther in Antakya Synagogue, which was damaged in the earthquakes, were taken to Israel by the Israeli search and rescue team ZAKA.

It was stated that the historical scrolls were delivered to Haim Otmazgin, the head of ZAKA, to be transported to a safe place.

The person who delivered the scrolls told Otmazgin, “I am afraid that the scrolls will fall into the wrong hands because of our closeness to Syria. Please protect them and make sure we are remembered,” as per claims.

”I am honored to save such an important historical document and to ensure that the legacy of the Jewish community in Antakya remains intact despite the destruction caused by the earthquake,” Otmazgin stated, according to the country’s media.

It was stated that Otmazgin would meet with an official from the Jewish community in Istanbul to find out to who they should entrust the scrolls.

The news caused great reactions on social media, as the Turkish Jewish Community announced that Israel handed over the scrolls.

“The scroll of Esther was delivered from Israel and is kept in our Chief Rabbinate. It will return to its home after the renovation of our Antakya Synagogue,” it said.

In other words, the rescue team took the scrolls after being requested to by a Jewish community member afraid they would fall in to Syrian hands. They were not stolen, but rather temporarily taken for safe-keeping.

As Middle East Eye adds:

The Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation quickly attempted to quell fears by addressing the issue on Twitter and assuring that the scrolls are in its possession.

“The relevant Esther scroll was received from Israel and is kept in our Chief Rabbinate. [The scroll] will return to its home in Antakya after the renovation of our synagogue,” it tweeted on Friday.

Under Turkish law it is forbidden for antiquities or artefacts of important historical value more than a century old to be taken abroad. 

The Book of Esther forms an important historical document for Turkey’s Jewish community. 

“The Esther Scrolls were given to them [the Israeli military] by the family for safekeeping, and at the first opportunity it was returned,” the leader of Turkey’s Ashkenazi Jewish community, Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, told Middle East Eye.

“The Esther Scrolls don’t have the same holiness as Torah scrolls. They are personal property of individuals,” said Chitrik, adding: “Religious people usually give it to a child when he becomes 13. My kids all have [them]. The whole thing is a non-issue.”

So while it is true the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism confirmed that the Anti-Smuggling Department has begun an investigation into this case:

this is not the same thing as finding Israel actually stole the manuscript.

Not that these Israel-haters actually care about Jewish manuscripts, which are highly inconvenient to their narrative. Their sole concern is demonizing the Jewish state.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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