On February 2, 2006, I inspected a new factory in the city of Mersin in southern Turkey. Travel from Israel to Mersin involves a stopover in Istanbul, a second flight to Adana, and then traveling by car to Mersin.
This area in Turkey has a reputation as a “problematic” area, known for extremists, and the airport in Adana is heavily guarded with check points on the entrance road.
After a full day of inspecting the factory, I returned to the airport in Adana to catch a flight to Istanbul.
Once I was inside the airport building and arrived at the check in area, I was able to reveal my tzitzis and take off the cap covering my yarmulke, the obvious symbols of my Jewish identity. Of course, I was immediately the center of attention and all eyes were on me, some full of hostility. Despite the tension, I took a seat on a bench and waited for the boarding announcement.
After a while, a man in his mid-thirties sat down next to me and stared. Finally, I gave him a strong look and he spoke, “Hi.” “Good evening,” I replied. “Are you Jewish?” the man asked. “If you are asking me you probably already know the answer,” I responded, “Sure I’m Jewish.” The man then rose from his seat, walked over and warmly shook my hand. He told me, “My name is Eli,” and presented me with his ID to prove he was telling the truth. We had a nice conversation and it turned out that he was a Jew living in Istanbul, married to a Jewish woman. He told me, “My father was not religious, but he insisted that I marry a Jewish woman.”
The man remembered little about his father, but then told me that he and his wife are expecting a baby boy. He knew he was supposed to perform a bris for his son and asked me if there was someone in Istanbul who could assist him with the arrangements. I gave him the contact details for Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, the Chabad emissary in the city, and told the man that Rabbi Chitrik would help him with all of the necessary arrangements for the bris.
Everything is hashgacha pratis and Hashem arranged that I was in this airport in Adana, wearing a yarmulke and tzitzis, precisely at the same time as this Jewish man in order that he should have the z’chus to make a bris for his son.