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When I give a briefing to the guests coming from abroad, I usually start my speech with a warm welcome to Istanbul, the unique city situated over two continents. More important is the fact that it is the only city in the world where synagogues, mosques and churches are side by side in harmony without interruption for a period of more than six centuries. I have to emphasize the fact  that being together is not the important aspect  , but LIVING TOGETHER is the essence.

I was extremely impressed by Kadir Topbas’s (Mayor of Istanbul) speech underlining the importance of LIVING TOGETHER  at the festivities which took place at  the Atatürk Culture Center  on the 548th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul.

The concert was most significant giving the spirit of people coming from different religions, living together in harmony and brotherhood since centuries. The aim of this concert was to show the world how people from different origins and religions gathered under the crescent and star of the Turkish  Flag expressed their adoration to the only GOD in different languages but same tunes peculiar to the same geography they live on. I would like to express my thanks to all, especially Dr. Architect Kadir Topbaş, for their efforts and labor in organising this magnificent concert.

On my return home from this art festivity, I decided to postpone the article I had written for this week edition of this magazine.This concert had triggered many old memories which I wanted to share with my readers.

-The main neighborhoods, samples of common life, are Hasköy, Ortaköy, Kuzguncuk, and Balat.

A traditional moslem collective circumcision  ceremony at a tea garden in Halıcıoğlu, Hasköy in 1938.Among the boys to be circumscribed were the three sons of Nuri Güler who was a policeman at the Hasköy Police Station. Güler had lost his wife some time ago and his meager income could poorly cover the needs of daily life..For a circumcision ceremony  beds, linen and quilts are a must.. Unfortunately, Nuri Güler could not provide these needs due to his non sufficiant financial position.Doretta and Eugenie were the daughters of Arslan Bey, a wealthy merchant in Hasköy.These two young ladies took the responsibility in providing all that was needed for the circumcision ceremony, never forgetting Nuri Güler’s protective attitude toward their family during the days of mobilisation.Thus, enabling the three boys to enjoy the festivities of the circumcision ceremony which is of great importance for young moslem boys. This incident has been revealed to me by Orhan Güler, the second child of the family, who is actually an artist at the Levent Kirca Oya Basar Drama Groupe.

 Another pointing incident which I find very emotional is the following:

In 1985, the buildings, between Hasköy and Halıcıoğlu, facing the Golden Horn were to be demolished in accordance with the ‘’Adornment and Improvement of the Golden Horn ‘’ Project set by Bedrettin  Dalan who was the Mayor of Istanbul at that time.

People whose houses or workshops were to be demolished were in the search of new places in the neighborhood.As a result of this great demand for new places, the rental and sale prices made   peak in the neighborhood.One of the stores to be demolished was the Çanakkale Shoe Store belonging to the Reyna Family.The Reyna family had moved to İstanbul following the riots in Çanakkale in 1934.Both Ovadya Reyna and his son Eli were working together and  supporting their families through the income gained at this store.The increasing prices in real estate, the meager expropriation indemnity they got from the government, and the limited amount of money they had made it impossible for them to rent or buy a new place. There seemed to be only two alternatives;Either to liquidate their work, or move to another neighborhood, leaving behind this beloved place where they lived since 1934.

The day of liquidation was approaching and  they were desperately trying to find a solution to this dilemma.Suddenly, their neighbor Ishak Aslan came in to  their store and declared: ‘’I have a store too big for me. My store is your store. I will rent part of it to you so that you continue your business in Hasköy. We can discuss rental conditions later.’’ This unexpected offer was an overjoy for the Reyna Family. On the eve of liquidation, Eli received a phone call from his father during a trip to Bursa., announcing him the sudden death of Ishak Aslan. Eli immediately returned to Istanbul in a desperate state of mind.As they were hurriedly trying to gather as much as they could before demolition started, two young men entered the store. ‘’Uncle, we are the sons of İshak Aslan. These are the keys of the store which my father had promised to be shared with us.Please hurry and gather your belongings and move to your new place where we will work in common.’’The father and son in gratitude revealed their thanks to these two young men and gathered the most they could since the bulldozers had already started demolishing outside.

The Aslan sons had been loyal to their father’s testament  up to this date.Ovadya Reyna died in 1998.His son Eli still works at  the same store which he shares with the Aslan Family, with no walls or boundaries in between. ‘’My family  and I will always remember in gratitude this humanistic attitude of the Aslan Family’’ he always says.

It is a great happiness for me if I have succeeded, in revealing the spirit of LIVING TOGETHER  in this marvelous, unique city, ISTANBUL-

Naim A. Güleryüz

Translated by Suzet Magriso

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