MERSIN , city in *Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast in Cilicia, capital of the province of Icel; population (2004), 587,800. In ancient times there was a Jewish community in the town. In 107 b.c.e., some of its Jewish inhabitants were transferred to the Bosphorus region by Mithridates iv, king of Pontus. No information is available on the existence of a Jewish community during the Middle Ages. From the 19th century, however, there were a number of Jews in the town who had come from various Turkish towns (especially *Salonika) and were engaged in commerce. In 1909, there was a *blood libel, in which one of the heads of the local Gatenyo family was accused of using Greek blood for the baking of matzah. The accusation was withdrawn after the intervention of the Greek patriarch of *Istanbul. During the late 1930s the community consisted of about 35 families, some of which were newcomers from such inland towns as Urfa, Maras, Antep, and Kilis. With the establishment of the State of Israel most Jews left to settle there. In 1977 there were still 43 Jews in Mersin, divided into groups according to origin (Ladino or Arabic as a second language). Most of them were merchants. There was a synagogue but no rabbi.
A. Galanté, Histoire des Juifs d'Anatolie, 2 (1939), 303f. add. bibliography: eis2, 6 (1991), 1023; S. Tuval, "Ha-Kehillot be-Turkiyah ka-Yom," in: Pe'amim, 12 (1982), 135–36.
[Abraham Haim /
David Kushner (2nd ed.)]