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Jewish Sites: Princes Islands Istanbul

Last Updated on August 21, 2022

The Princes' Islands, a half-hour's voyage southeast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara, were named for the Byzantine princes once exiled here. In Turkish, they're simply called Adalar (ah-dah-LAHR), "The Islands."

In the 19th century these delightful islands became a favorite summer resort for wealthy Istanbullu families, most of them non-Muslim. Intricately-decorated Victorian villas and a few hotels still harbor well-to-do summer residents, and many more visitors come on day excursions from the city.

No private motor vehicles are permitted on the islands.
People get around on foot, by bicycle and horse-drawn carriage.

Büyükada, the largest of the Princes' Islands near Istanbul.

Jewish community life is limited to summertime, when synagogues on Büyükada, Heybeliada and Burgaz Adasi are open on Shabbat. There is also a Jewish summer camp on Burgaz.

GETTING THERE

Büyükada and Heybeliada are most easily reached by ferryboat or by faster "sea bus" catamaran from Kabatas. For Burgaz, take a ferry that stops at all the islands, or backtrack from Büyükada or Heybeliada.

WHAT TO SEE IN THE ISLANDS

Büyükada, largest and most interesting of the islands, has the Heshet Le Avram Synagogue, Pancur Sokak No. 13, open in summer only. A day-trip to Büyükada can also include a horse-drawn carriage tour of the island and perhaps lunch at a waterfront restaurant.

Heybeliada also has its Beth Yaakov Synagogue, open in summer only. This island is also the home of the Turkish Naval Academy.

Burgaz, the second island out from Istanbul (after Kinali), is of less interest to tourists, as most services are keyed to local summer residents. Burgaz Midrah Synagogue is open in summer only, as is the Jewish children's summer camp.

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