Having coffee in Istanbul a few years back, in 2017, I noticed a synagogue across the street, with colorful umbrellas suspended in front of it. A wedding party arrived and took pictures before the door. My friends and I observed from our table on the curb. I thought, this is a hopeful moment.
Democracy struggles in Turkey. I knew that then. I know it now even better. Is the synagogue still open? Was it then? I have no idea. Yet there it stood and there stood the couple before it, commemorating their marriage. Istanbul is full of such surprises. Maybe that is why I love it so much. Every time I visit, I feel hopeful for the future, for the future of relations between the East and the West, across the divides of religions and cultures. Istanbul is a place where people can celebrate being and breathing together, no matter who they are. It may be momentary, evanescent, but the feeling inspires, one breathes deeper, and the heart finds courage.
At that moment, I decided on a life theme and a motto: Live for Democracy. Today, March 1, 2022, as Putin tries to pound Ukraine into submission, my mind took itself back to the colorful umbrellas, the happy couple, the synagogue. The memory is helping me to recover my voice.