Turkish tourists canceling trips to Israel


Turkish tourists have canceled their reservations for trips to Jerusalem amid increasing political tension between Israel and Turkey in recent days.

Upon hearing that Turkish tourists have been treated badly in Israel, 30 tourists who were supposed to arrive at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport at 7:30 a.m. this morning canceled their reservations. They said they were worried about the uncertain and unpredictable behavior of Israeli officials.

An official from a tourism company that makes regular trips to Jerusalem said clients who had made reservations for between Sep. 25-28, Oct. 16-19 and Oct. 27-30 asked to cancel their trips due to the ongoing crisis between the Israeli and Turkish governments, Cihan News Agency reproted.

Over the past year, Turkish tourists have submitted dozens of petitions to officials at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which has failed to solve the problem. Turkish tourists ran out of patience with aggressive Israelis after officials at Ben Gurion airport harassed Turks over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and they shared their grievances with the public. This came after the diplomatic tension between Turkey and Israel worsened.

Turkey downgraded its diplomatic ties to secondary secretary and suspended all military agreements between Israel and Turkey after Israel decided to continue refusing to apologize for raiding the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla and killing nine Turkish citizens in May 2010. Turkey imposed several sanctions on Israel after the UN’s Palmer Report was leaked to the media last Friday. After the leak, Turkey decided to expel the Israeli ambassador.

The ongoing crisis apparently triggered emotional reactions from officials at the airport.

Turkish tourists gave up on visiting Jerusalem under such circumstances. One tourism company official said that 75 people had canceled their trips so far. He said he has visited Israel more than 30 times and has noticed that Israeli security forces have changed their attitude toward Turkish citizens after the raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.

Turkish tourists have been targeted and mistreated by Israeli officials since then, he said under condition of anonymity; However, he said Israeli security officials at the airport have always asked questions like the following: Have you ever been to Afghanistan? For what reason did you come to Israel? What did you buy and for what reason? How many people did you come with? Do you have a relative in Israel?

Bekir Öztürk, who has trade links with Israel, said he received the same treatment. “I have many Jewish friends there and have always sold things in Israel, but this time I couldn’t leave with the stuff I bought in Israel. They forced me to leave the things I bought behind,” he said.

It seems the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey is worsening and directly affects tourism and tourists.