NCR-02, a text by Can Firuze: Cross street, temporary/selective memory and male herois
İstiklal Caddesi Topçekerler Sokak No:12
A Play in 3 Acts
Act 1: May 2007: Discovery of cross history
The location of the building where Ben Gurion, the main founder of the State of Israel, is rumoured to have stayed between 1912 and 1914; number 12. Coincidentally, the old blue and the new red door number plates both display the same number. It is located in one of the islands that look as if they are subsiding whilst compressed between İstiklal Avenue and Tarlabaşı Boulevard – an area that is now being swiped by the “Urban Transformation” project. The street is called Topçekerler Sokak. A street that has been in much demand until the 1950’s or even 1986. A discreet street that connects Balo to Kamer Hatun. Running on a right angle to Çekül Foundation and behind Ghetto, a club that is dished out as a “famous joint” in the recent months. Finally, it is a street most probably known to İlhan Berk and a spot that still remeains unconquered by İspark to this day.
Act 2: October 2007: Placement of the Plaque
On 25.10.2007, a plaque was placed on the building with the number that corresponds to the building in which Ben Gurion had stayed in – because the actual building has long vanished. Following this ceremony, an event was organized at Istanbul University’s Faculty of Law where Gurion had been a student. All of it was handled without much ado, wihout excessive PR. Erman Tuncer, formerly a leader of the National Turkish Student Union, now the advisor to the Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, attends the plaque ceremony. Let us hear what he said on that occasion:
“It makes us happy to know that such a great statesman once lived and was educated in Istanbul. He was born in Poland, grew up in Selonika and studied law at Istanbul Darülfünun (University). He was therefore closely familiar with the cultural values of the Turkish people. He was to Israel what Atatürk had been to us, and he was also very influenced by Atatürk’s ideas. This great statesman built the State of Israel in line with the principles that guided Atatürk in his efforts to found and develop the Turkish Republic. The relations between these two countries led to Turkey being the first government in the world to recognize Israel. Today, we need to establish peace in the Middle East and create an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding prompted by the Ottomans. In the Ottoman period, there were churches, mosques and synagogues here, all living in unison. Out of respect for all religious communities, the Ottomans used “La İlahi İllallah” as opposed to their own “Muhammedi Resulullah”. They embraced all communities through the figure of Prophet Abraham as the common denominator of the three major monotheistic religions and thus tried to establish peace here. My wish is that both these countries founded by Atatürk and Israel’s Atatürk become the bringers of peace to the world. We need unity and solidarity to overcome terrorism which inflicts so much suffering on our people. Turkey will improve her relations wth Israel even further and we will together enjoy a peaceful realm which embraces also the Arabs.”
Act 3: January 2009: The vanishing of the plaque and violence on the cross street
At the end of January 2009, the above-mentioned plaque was taken down with no specified reason. The building was evacuated and a “for rent” sign was put up. It also became apparent that the plans for the Ben Gurion memorial museum would not be actualized. Necessary conditions for permanent memory seem to have failed to come into existence on this cross street. With the backwash from Gazze reaching our shores in the meantime.
On a Saturday night filled with vomit and sulphur, a few “local” men forced to settle for the leftovers of the entertainment economy beat up two “black” men. One of the “blacks”, with face covered in blood”, points his finger at the sky, right in front of the building where Ben Gurion had stayed and begs the “singular God”. Repeating in hope, in desperation “There is only one God, there is only one God. The employees of the “entertainment sector” are standing around in clusters, shouting: “Our guys beat up the black”. Obviously those words uttered in English didn’t sound like “I am also a child of God” to their ears.
It is like the finishing moments of a football match: The ball is wihdrawn, it is thrown out of bounds: the street name is revived. Entertainment that is established upon the foundations of a shortsighted PR, concessions, exclusion/inclusion, discrimination, briefly speaking urban distribution, cannot tolerate memory of any kind.
Act 4: 1 June 2010: a new crisis reflected on the street
After the events of the Gazze fleet, the plaque was once again dismounted.
Since then, the miserable building is standing there all alone in a quiet inertia.