Two days ago I arrived in Istanbul and, after checking on to the ship, headed off for the highly-recommended Four Seasons hotel to have a drink on at their rooftop restaurant across from the Hagia Sophia mosque, close to the Blue mosque, with a view to the Bosporus. Quite the panorama.
Istanbul and Turkey are thriving; the economy is growing far faster than America, over three percent a year. Having never concentrated on Turkey I’m learning what a pivotal role it plays in the European and Middle Eastern political climate. It’s well over 90 percent Islamic, with mosques and minarets dotting the Istanbul landscape, but Ataturk successfully separated church and state more than fifty years ago. Iran claims the reason for this is that Ataturk killed the Mullahs who fought him. I don’t know about that, but Ataturk’s ten-year revolution has formed a Democratic state separate from Islamic rule, positioning Turkey as a unique blend of European and Middle Eastern cultures, an exciting place to be.
The relationship between Turkey and Israel, that has recently helped hold the Middle East together, is under siege. Some Turks were found to be involved in an attack on Israeli’s blockade of Syria; Israel complained, and Turkey has expelled the Israeli ambassador, a destabilizing move. Meanwhile, as the Arab Spring makes Egypt less attractive to Middle Eastern vacationers, Turkey is thriving as an alternative, and the real estate prices near Turkish resorts are climbing rapidly.
The relationship between Turkey and Greece is not unlike that between Pakistan and India, one of unfortunate continual enmity. Several of the islands off Turkey were ‘given’ to Greece after WWII—to the victor go the spoils—and, to hear the locals spake of them, they remain touching Muslim and Christian nations with little love lost between them.
None of this has anything to do with my major reason for traveling halfway around the globe, to explore many of the geography of the Bible. That will change quickly when we arrive in Ephesus later today. I’m off to the ship’s library to read some of the books of the Bible I’ve not spent much time with (for example Revelations, which tradition has written in a cave on Patmos) and other books to prepare.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose -- President