It's tragic how many
Armenians are so blinded by hatred that they prefer to live in the past, and
deny themselves the joys of their roots. Not all Armenians are like that. Some
Armenians prefer concentrating on their emotional attachments to the old
country. These Armenians know Turkish music, food and language form as much a
part of their identities as anything else, and don't appreciate being
ostracized by the larger, more hateful Armenian group. They feel they are
robbed of their precious past and cherished memories, and resent the
domineering attitude of the other group.
I'm a big fan of Edward
Tashji, who has the guts and the love to come right out and declare where
he stands. In his own words, this "Armenian-American has become 'famous,'
(he said with all humility), within the Turkish community, while becoming
"infamous", (he said with deep regret), within the Armenian
community." Also, in his words... he is : "An American born of an
Armenian mother and a Syrian-Orthodox father (.) He is the younger son of
parents who had been born in Ottoman Turkey, became eye-witness to the
conflagration of the First World War in their beloved homeland, and as a
result, their destiny brought them to the land where millions had
Freedom and Harmony as Revealed by Seven Candles
In this section, I have attempted to honestly reveal to the readers of The Turkish
Times, factual information pertaining to Turkish- Armenian history, and my profound
involvement in this subject with a perspective unlike any other. The unique feature of
each offering is that the author is the son of Armenian and Syrian Orthodox parents. I do
not wish to he repetitive, but for the reader who has “met” us here for the first
time. I felt this much of our introduction would be appropriate.
The date of the event described in this article is not of major significance, but that
indeed it did take place brings to public attention one important page of Turkish history.
It is a page which reveals irrefutable evidence to the harmony and freedom shared by all
ethnic and religious entities within the Ottoman Empire, extending to the present times in
the Republic of Turkey.
May I take you back to Sunday. December 4, 1994 — when a memorial service had taken
place at the Turkish Center in New York City. The members of the American Association of
Jewish Friends of Turkey, Inc. had gathered to honor the sacred memory of Mr. Louis Levy
— President of the AAJFF — who had passed away on November 3, 1994.
Representing the Federation of Turkish-American Associations. my wife and I had
participated in the memorial tribute to our beloved friend. As the date had coincided with
the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, at the speaker’s table a beautiful menorah had been
placed. At the conclusion of the statements made by the pro-tem president, Professor David
F. Altabe, prayers were recited n Hebrew, celebrating Chanukah. During the service, the
candles on the menorah had been lighted. When two candles renamed unlit, I was invited to
the table to light the sixth candle! Every person in the audience of close to two hundred
people knew we were born of Christian parents from Ottoman Turkey. I struggled not to
become emotional for this magnificent gesture. I spoke a few words, and as one candle had
remained unlit, I proceeded to escort from the audience, Mrs. Esen Behen, a Turkish Muslim
lady, to light the final candle. As she brought a flame to the remaining candle, a
resounding applause filled the room. The glittering simple candles, more than representing
the significance of the Holy Day, served as an illumination of a monumental beacon to
brotherhood among peoples of different faiths. Indeed, the faithful of Jewish, Christian,
and Moslem faiths joined inseparably by the cultural root — in the soil of Turkey!
Because of the date, I had decided to include the above narrative in our Christmas
greetings to the mayor of New York City, and to the President a.s well.
The following is taken from a letter from the mayor of New York City, Mayor Rudolph W.
Giuliani — dated January 3, 1995: “... Thank you for your kind holiday greeting. I
extend my condolences for the loss of Mr. Louis Levy, President of the American
Association of Jewish Friends of Turkey. His memorial service was blessed by the
expression of mutual respect among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities..’ And in
response to my Christmas greetings — on behalf of the Turkish-American community — to
the President, the White House wrote in part: “…Thank you so much for your warm
holiday greetings. I was moved by your story of the memorial service for Louis Levy...”
The letter concluded with the signature of Bill Clinton. The exchange of letters was
published in the Winter 1994-1995 issue of the AAJFT Newsletter. Receiving the responses
from the President and the mayor surely pleased me, just as many other letters from these
respective offices have in the past. But NOT because these politicians would remember the
name of the person who had written to them initially, but rather because they would
remember the Turkish-American community! Indeed, the “power of the pen” remains an
instrument of immeasurable value. The choice we are obliged to make, however, is whether
our written — or spoken — word is factual or not; defamatory or irrefutable. In all
matters pertaining to Turkish history and culture, from my perspective, the American media
continues to be blatantly anti-Turkish. It is for this reason The Turkish Times continues
to be an indispensable source of accurate information.
Dear reader, Just as many events have done, the most memorable services described above
took me back to my youth, when my saintly mother would reveal to me many facts pertaining
to her childhood in Balikesir, (Ottoman) Turkey: "My son, every morning when we used
to hear the 'ezan,' (the Moslem call to prayer) from the minaret, we always blessed
ourselves by making the sign of the cross." When I had reacted with confusion, since
she was Christian, she would reply, “My son, that was never a problem. The beautiful
call to prayer was for everyone who believed in the one God of all mankind!’ In the
illumination of seven candles on a menorah, l found myself in the land of my parents —
the land of all religions, all ethnic groups, practicing their respective faiths according
to their own beliefs and customs. The land of my ancestors: The Republic Of Turkey! I seem
to recall the first pilgrims who came to the “new world” had come to these shores to
establish such a religious freedom. There are factors of Turkish history which remain
unknown to most Americans, and when next we “meet,” I will offer you additional facts
(such a nice word, isn't it?) which will reveal the falsification of Turkish culture
taking place to this day. Facts will correct the distortions. Until then.... (now how
shall I conclude...?), of course, our work continues!
I am Called: "Turk Dostu" — A "Friend of Turks"
The Turkish Times
March 1, 1998