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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 27 September 2014
12 SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2014 GREECE History professor Peled Bar- zilai pays close attention as a guide shows the group of Israeli tourists from Netan- ya around Thessaloniki's Yeni (New) Mosque, built in 1902 for the northern port city's Donmeh community - Jews in the Ottoman Empire who publicly converted to Islam while privately observing a mystical form of Judaism. The caps that Barzilai and the rest of the group are wearing, all featuring the same adver- tising logo, not only protect them against the sun; they also hide their yarmulkes. The ongoing crisis has not stopped Israeli tourists from going on organised trips to Thessaloniki, but just a few hours before a local protest against the air strikes on Gaza, the visitors are very careful. They cover up their yarmulkes as they visit local monuments. The group say that during an earlier visit to Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) they had a police escort. Meanwhile, hundreds of tourists from Istanbul, Bur- sa, Smyrna and other areas in Turkey are visiting the mul- timedia Ataturk Museum, housed in the former home of the founder of the mod- ern Turkish state. They take pictures of a wax sculpture of Ataturk, read and listen to stories about his hometown, learn about his military and political achievements, and then rest in the museum's gar- den. Later, they drink coffee in the neighbourhood ‘kafeneia’ and go souvenir shopping. Tourists from Israel and Turkey, as well as those from the Balkans and Russia, have helped in Thessaloniki's reju- venation over the past four years. A solid campaign by Mayor Yiannis Boutaris and a number of travel agencies to promote the city's multicul- tural past and attract tourists has met with a great deal of success. Between 2010 and 2013, the number of Israeli tourists rose by 358 per cent, while Turkish visitors went up 226 per cent. According to Spyros Pengas, a tourism con- sultant at the Municipality of Thessaloniki, although Israeli and Turkish tourists only tend to stay in the city for a very short period, their presence has been a huge boon for the local economy, and there has been an increase in the num- ber of medium- and high- in- come Turkish visitors. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, saw a huge increase in Turkish visitors to Thes- saloniki this year. Numbers are estimated on the basis of the visitor count at the Atat- urk Museum. In the first six months of 2014 there were 31,000 visits (against 29,500 in the same period last year) and if 2013 is anything to go by, the rest of the year is set to see many more. A total 80,000 Turks visited the museum last year up from 25,000 in 2010. "I feel at home here," says Esin Uzun, who works at a bank in Istanbul. "I expected Ataturk's house to be differ- ent but I found it to be exactly as it was described in histori- cal texts. I was fascinated by the Ottoman monuments, the White Tower and Aristotelous Square," she adds. Most Turkish tourists visit the Alaca Imaret Mosque, the Hamza Bey Mosque, the port and its Ottoman structures, the Yedi Kule fortress, which offers fine views of the entire city, and the Church of Saint Demetrios. They go out, shop, enjoy the local food and ven- ture further afield to see mon- uments such as the Mausole- um of Gazi Evrenos, an Otto- man military commander, at Giannitsa, the Zincirli Mosque in nearby Serres, the Royal Tombs of Vergina and the an- cient city of Dion. The Israelis, who don't spend as much as the Turks, visit monuments such as the Yad Lezikaron Synagogue, the Holocaust monument, the Jewish Museum, the Yeni Mosque, the Villa Allatini, the Municipal Art Gallery housed in the famous Villa Bianca, Stoa Saoul (named after its patron, the banker and generous benefactor Saul Modiano), the Modiano Mar- ket and Ladadika, a district fa- mous today for its bars and restaurants. "The Jews know their histo- ry but they can understand it much better by visiting the ar- eas where Jewish civilisation grew. Thessaloniki is an im- portant part of Jewish history and tradition," says Barzilai. For the Turks and the Is- raelis, Thessaloniki is not just another holiday destina- tion. For Turks, it is Ataturk's birthplace and for Jews it is the ‘Mother of Israel’. Many of them visit Thessaloniki to learn about their ancestors. "In every group of tourists there is at least one person who has some connection to Thessaloniki," says Erika Pera- hia Zemour, who works at the Jewish Museum. "It was very wise of Boutaris to ensure that Israelis are given help at the registry office, where they go to find data about births in the pre-war period and informa- tion about relatives." Tour guide Constantinos Sfy- kas says many descendants of Thessaloniki Jews have cried on his shoulder after identify- ing the homes of their grand- parents, but he also men- tions the excitement he has witnessed as Jews and Turks alike discover the cultural and architectural traces of their forebears who once lived in Thessaloniki. Source: ekathimerini The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. Turks and Israelis flock to Thessaloniki Efforts to highlight the multicultural past of the city pay off and bring in new tourists IOTA MYRTSIOTI It would usually happen during essay writing class. In an effort to provoke de- bate among the students, the teacher would raise the issues of democracy, freedom, multi- culturalism or racism. These were the hot topics that would bring the problem to the fore. There would always be one student who would stand up to voice his objections about the state of contemporary de- mocracy, defending his be- liefs regarding the superior- ity of the ancient Greeks and his contempt for ‘criminal’ immigrants, even supposed mudslinging against Nazi Germany. "It was not done on purpose, or in a conscious manner, but gradually topics like these were withdrawn from the syllabus. No one re- ally wanted conversations like that in the classroom." It was not easy being a teach- er to 10-14 year old students. A number of them, often the schools' most popular, adopted the rhetoric of Greece's neo- Nazi Golden Dawn party and disrupted teaching. Some- times teachers would even receive veiled threats along the lines of "my parents know someone in Golden Dawn". That was until last Septem- ber, when the murder of anti- fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in Keratsini, western Piraeus, set a sequence of events into mo- tion and order was restored. "After the murder the in- cidents decreased," a pub- lic school teacher told the Greek daily Kathimerini. "We also had our share of young Golden Dawn followers. We would see the meander logo scratched on the desks, but as of last September, particularly after the crackdown on Golden Dawn, the phenomenon abat- ed. These people had been tak- en down from their pedestals in the eyes of the children," she said. "After all, they ap- pealed mostly to the strong, athletic types who liked pow- er. When they saw their he- roes handcuffed, they stopped airing their views, at least in the classroom," she said. Things were not much dif- ferent in private schools. "There are still students who are drawn to Golden Dawn, but they're not organised in groups like they used to be," said a math teacher at a big private school. "In the past we would have big problems as pro-GD students would gang up and bully their classmates or even teachers," he contin- ued. One of these groups, he added, had even come up with a special symbol that they would draw everywhere like the students in the German film Die Welle (The Wave), a cautionary tale about the roots of fascism. In that case the teachers' council put on a united front. "We maintained our stance and the problem seemed to go away, at least inside the school campus," he said. "No one really knows what hap- pens inside the children's homes, but nobody talks about Golden Dawn at school any- more. It seems to have gone out of fashion," he added. That does not mean that schools commemorated the anniversary of Fyssas's kill- ing a few days ago. Despite requests by parents' and teachers' groups across Ath- ens that a moment of silence be held in memory of the murdered musician, only a small number of schools did so. "Nobody talks about Fyssas anymore," the pri- vate school teacher said. "It's just like what happened with Alexis [Grigoropoulos, killed by a police officer during the Athens riots of 2008]. It's like we went from memory to for- getfulness very fast," he said. Source: ekathimerini After the arrest of Nikolaos Michaloliakos and other members of the lead- ership of Golden Dawn, the influence of the extremists on young students has declined. GD influence in schools declines After the clamp down on Golden Dawn by the Greek state, young students no longer take up its rhetoric LINA GIANNAROU The house where the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was born in Thessaloniki. Modiano Market, in the heart of Thessaloniki, is one of the destinations of tourists from Israel, Turkey and other countries.
20 September 2014
04 October 2014