Please enjoy this wonderful internet site called the Jewish Virtual Library that has lots of information about the Jewish world, Jewish history, etc. This particular entry is a short summary of the history of the Jews of Turkey.
I saw the mesmerizing Whirling Dervishes at a circumcision party for a 9 ½-year old boy.
The celebration was just one of the unexpected delights I encountered while traveling with the Houston-based Institute of Interfaith Dialog through Turkey — but one of my favorites.
Even though we were invited by the brother of our Houston-based Turkish host, we felt a little like party crashers when we walked through the double doors and into the grand celebration, just in time for a delicious multi-course meal.
Nine Sufi musicians provided background music as 14 Texans and the rest of the guests ate, chatted and admired the children running around with excitement. The boy of honor, who would have his surgical procedure the next morning, was dressed like a little prince, with an embellished cape, a staff in hand and white feather in his cap.
After dessert and the required hot tea, the evening's highlight began. Five men and two boys walked toward the dance floor and began the captivating ritual. Those unfamiliar with the Whirling Dervishes might think their performance is entertainment, but it is worship for both the participants and Muslim onlookers. The Dervishes repeat the word “Allah” as they spin and the musicians accompanying them sing religious songs and recite verses from the Quran.
The ceremony's music, repetitive movements and hypnotic qualities can draw even tourists into an otherworldly experience.
“There is something very spiritually magical about them,” said Sonia Honne-Gonzalez, a fellow traveler from Austin.
The Sufi ritual, which dates to the 13th century, is full of symbolism. The full skirts represent the ego's shroud. The camel-hair conical headdresses symbolizes the ego's tomb, and the twirling itself acknowledges that everything — from the Earth to the atom — is constantly revolving.
As the Dervishes extend their arms, their right palms face up and the left palms face downward.
“One hand is receiving (beneficence) from God, the other hand is delivering to the people,” explained Abdul Wahhab, the 28-year-old leader of the night's Dervish group. He has been whirling since he was 12, and seemed almost judge-like, wearing a black robe and walking around as if he were sizing the performers up. That wasn't it, he explained through a translator after the ritual. As the Dervishes get deeper and deeper into mediation, their feet nearly come off the ground. His job is to bring them back down, he said.
I counted the youngest of the whirlers, a 13-year-old, go around 124 times before completing one of the ceremony's many parts.
“What happens when they're done?” asked fellow traveler Soofia Aleem of Katy. “Don't they get really dizzy?”
They do not. And with their eyes closed, they cross their arms over their chest and bow when they are finished. The bow signifies their return to subservience.
My curiosity got the best of me when I returned to our hotel room. I moved some furniture and began to twirl, counting each of my own spins. I made it around eight times before I became so dizzy that I had to steady myself on furniture as I made my way to the bed to lie down.