Back to my father’s roots in Istanbul by Nimrod Dagan

Three stories about Nimi’s trip to Istanbul, the city where his father was born, and never came back

We could say: “It was our way to stay outside of Schengen Europe, after we find out I over stayed my visa, and we had to wait out the time till I’ll get my Romanian passport”, we could say: “We had to be in a different environment after being in London for almost 3 weeks”, we could say: “It’s Kristof’s birthday and he really loves this city”, “It’s cheaper than staying home”, “We needed the sea side vibes & sspirit”, and of course: “It’s because of the food”, but the real truth is that it’s all true.

Istanbul is one of the most exciting places in the whole world, city full of history, of different people from different places, region, beliefs from all over the globe. There is no better place than Istanbul for meeting the diversity of people you encounter here – from locals through Arabs to Jews and more.

One of the most exciting moments of this Turkish trip was meeting a lovely couple from Iran. For almost an hour we talked with them about being different & so similar to each other at the same time, about how sad it is that we must fear of our governments as they are trying to separate us & turn us against each other. About peace, humanity, goodness, hummus, falafel and love.

We met Syrian guy who runs a beautiful chocolate store on Taksim Square. We met a Lebanese guys and instead of arguing we were laughing together, saying that we are neighbors.

Nobody has any issues with where the other person is from, the opposite, people are #curious to meet, to speak, to get to know each other face to face, even to hug, outside of the newspaper, far from what we see on TV, different from what our politicians are telling us. “We are all the sons of Avraham”, people were telling us, or we told other people by the end of each kind of this meeting.

We all born to live & love. Wish we will all understand this for once.

My father doesn’t know much about his family, if it’s because he chooses not to ask & not to know, or because no one was actually telling him anything. He was born in April 1947, and a year later his parents left Istanbul and came to Israel, back then still Palestinian.

My father never went back to Turkey, his mom died when he was 16, and his father who used to tell him a lot about Turkey – he refused to listen from wanting to be and feel as a local in Israel. My father settled down in Israel, and became an #Israeli like his family were not living in Turkey for 7 generations, he even changed his originally family name.
I was born years later, never met my grandparents from his side, never heard anything about Istanbul, Turkey, or my #Turkish roots, even not about my 7 generations family – who I don’t even know their names, if they stayed in Turkey, came to Israel, still alive, living as Jewish or not, or doesn’t even know they are Jewish.

2 weeks in Istanbul and I suddenly understood that I never felt more connected with family roots anywhere else in my life. Something about the Turkish vibes, the way they behave, communicate – similar to me, and even more than this – they way they look, their skin, hair color & hair body, even their high  body shape. And how much sense it makes, I’m a second generation in Israel to my mom who was born there, and on the other side I have my Turkish father and his 6 generations of great grand fathers & mothers who were born & lived in Istanbul.

I wish I could go after my roots and find my relatives who are living in Turkey, but this will have to wait for the next trip, maybe when I’ll bring my father here one day. Now I’m back in Bucharest, waiting to receive my Romanian passport that I’m about to get through my Transylvanian grandparents from my mom side. Also with the Transylvanian people I have something in common, and probably also here I have some relatives. Maybe the world is a big family after all?

I’m passing by so many people everyday, everywhere, in so many countries, so many cities, everywhere there is poverty, in so many places there are beggars, from all colors, all types, in all different languages, from all groups of ages.

I’m trying to give as much as I can, every time someone catches me with some small coins in my pockets. Today we set in a bar in the middle of Istanbul Turkey, I was occupied with sitting down, with connecting my phone to the wifi, ordering my beer, and at same time a little girl passed by, she raised her hand to me, and without knowing or thinking I told her “no sorry” and I sent her away.

A minute later I started to feel bad, I grabbed my wallet, I left my beer on the table and I started to run around, trying to find her, I couldn’t, she disappeared, and I stayed with those unnecessary coins in my hand, and with her sad and disappointed eyes inside my head – that I’ll never forget.

5 minutes later another girl passed by, she offered me tissues, and if I needed it or not, I bought tissues from her, if it makes me feel better? Maybe just for a second. I wish we could live in a world where there are only smiling children, and children who are smiling not only if someone buying tissues from them.

Follow Nimi on Insta as @nimrodagan, and on his FB page Life By Nimi

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