22 October 2016 - 20 Tishri 5777 - כ' תשרי ה' אלפים תשע"ז

A significant and first-of-itskind interfaith programme was held in Jerusalem in September, bringing together leading Asia religious leaders across many faiths. For most of the 25 participants, the visit was their first to Israel.

The five-day programme, “Ancient Traditions Contemporary Realities – A Meeting of Israel-Asia Faith Leaders”, included visits to other parts of the country. The influential Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Shinto, Jain, Taoism and Zoroastrian leaders from China, India, Japan, Myanmar, South Korea and Taiwan engaged with leading Israeli rabbis orthodox and progressive aswell as scholars, and Israel’s top leadership. AJC (the global Jewish advocacy organisation) and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in co-operation with the World Council of Religions, organised the event.

“Expanding our interactions with other faiths is critical to nurturing a more co-operative, productive and peaceful world,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC International Director of Interreligious Affairs, who is based in Jerusalem.

Akiva Tor, the head of the Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions in the Foreign Ministry, explained that given Israel’s strengthening ties with the countries of East Asia, “it is appropriate that we convene a dialogue of civilisations to undergird these growing strategic, political and economic connections with ties of culture, spirit and deep mutual understanding.”

The Sikh representative, Giani Gurbachan Singh, has been called the “Sikh pope”, and Chandanaji is the first woman to attain the most senior position in the Jain religion. One of the Chinese representatives, Xue Cheng, is the president of the Buddhist Association of China, one of the state-approved religious frameworks there. Hsin, from Taiwan, is the influential abbot of a monastery in southern Taiwan that holds one of the relics of Buddha, and Kim Wan Doo from Korea is the head monk at the Seon Sangdo Meditation Center in Seoul, and is basically the supreme patriarch of Korean Buddhism.

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Former Israeli President Shimon Peres dies E-mail

Israel’s elder statesman Shimon Peres passed away at the age of 93 from a stroke on 28 September in a Tel Aviv hospital. World leaders, hundreds of dignitaries and diplomats representing around 70 countries assembled for his funeral on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzyl national cemetery on 30 September.

Born in 1923, Wołożyn, Poland (now Valozhyn, Belarus), he immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of eleven and grew up in Tel Aviv.

Peres served as both prime minister (1984–86 and 1995– 96) and president (2007–14) and as leader of the Israel Labour Party (1977–92, 1995–97 and 2003–05). Peres was the county’s ninth President.

In 1993, in his role as Israeli foreign minister, Peres helped negotiate a peace accord with Yāsir Arafāt, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), for which they, along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994. “Now his work is in the hands of Israel’s next generation,” US President Barack Obama said during the funeral. Israel’s Prime Minister Delivering a eulogy, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “That so many leaders came from around the world to bid farewell to Shimon is a testament to his optimism, his quest for peace.” Former US President Bill Clinton, who helped negotiate the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, said he was Israel’s “biggest dreamer”.

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Israeli firm to set up cyber security academies in India E-mail

Acting on the recent bilateral agreement on homeland security between Israel and India, a cyber security company from Israel, Vital Intelligence Group, announced in September that it will establish cyber security academies in India.

The firm is expected to kick off operations in Mumbai next April, and will then establish branches in New Delhi and Hyderabad.

The academies will give defence training to the government, private organisations and private citizens in various disciplines of cyber security that will meet the needs of “emergency management, law enforcement, disaster management and safety organisations, military and governmental agencies, and private security groups”.

It plans to provide courses ranging from a diploma to a four-year specialisation in cyber security and cyber defence. The company could also provide special training to the government and its security agencies, including the military, if invited to do so.

Marc Kahlberg, Chief Executive Officer of the company and a former Israeli Defense Force and National Police Officer, said experts from his team researched crime rates in Mumbai for six months before planning to establish the company in India. He claimed that the institute can provide vital knowledge that will help security agencies investigate crimes effectively.

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Chinese-speaking tour guides E-mail

With Chinese tourism to Israel increasing, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism is looking to university students to fill its lack of Chinese-speaking tour guides.

The ministry is offering a grant of nearly US$4,000 to each undergraduate or graduate student of East Asia Studies who undergoes the rigorous tour-guide course and becomes licensed to lead Chinese groups.

Israel’s Tourism Ministry reports that tourism from China grew 43% from 2014 to 2015. It estimates that 100,000 residents of China will visit Israel by 2018.

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Israeli embassy in Vietnam carries out humanitarian mission E-mail

Israel’s embassy in Vietnam, together with the local Family Medical Practice network, recently carried out a seven-day humanitarian mission to one of the country’s poorest areas.

A multinational team comprised of over 120 doctors, nurses and logistics personnel travelled to Kon Tum to offer free medical care and medications, guide the local medical staff in family medicine, provide a modern ultrasound machine to the Kong Plong district hospital, and distribute basic food products and clothing.

The mission, founded by Dr Rafi Kot, touched the lives of over 8,000 people through the provision of essential medical and basic care.

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