|Keeping the faith in Indonesia|
Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. However, in recent years, the two nations have begun to open their unofficial ties up a bit and there has been exchanges between high ranking diplomats representing Jerusalem and Jakarta.
In 2006, the first official visit to a Muslim country in five years took place when Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign Ministry, Amos Nadai, and Israeli Ambassador in Bangkok, Yael Rubinstein, arrived in Jakarta to attend a convention organised by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
In 2007, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, held his first public meeting with Indonesia's Ambassador Rezlan Ishar Jenie. Additionally, headline news was made when, in 2008, eight Indonesian journalists were sponsored on a landmark visit to Israel, the joint efforts of the Australian Israel & Jewish Affairs Committee (AIJAC) and the American Jewish Committee.
Indonesia does not have foreign correspondents in Israel and probably very few Indonesians have ever met an Israeli or any Jew for that matter, yet Jewish Times Asia received a report, from Jakarta, of a small community of Jewish residents eager to reach out to other Jews living in and traveling through Indonesia.
They are eager to share their spirit with others and strengthen their tiny community. They estimate that only just over ten Jews live in Jakarta and surrounding areas like Manado. They are expats from the United States, Europe and Israel.
There are also other local Jews originally from the Netherlands. Many other Jews travel through the nation and its capital, on business or leisure trips. They maintain a very low profile and do not wear kippa or other identifying garb in public.
Judaism is not listed on any official documents, as it is not a recognised religion. They indicate that locals are aware that they are Jewish, but on an individual level they are respected. Local Christians, also a minority, are very interested in speaking with them about religion and discussing their viewpoints.
The small community, not surprisingly, does not have a Torah, but they do have five siddurs / machzors which they share and copy. They communicate via e-mail in order to make arrangements for the observance of festivals. In the best of times, tourists or businessmen travelling through Jakarta or Manado will join them for services and festivities.
For Sukkot, a representative from the United States Embassy, who works in Jakarta, hosted for the festival. As Jewish Indonesian resident, Yaakov Baruch relates, "With the arrival of Mrs. Ellise, at the embassy, we have a new angel here in Jakarta.
She can cook kosher food. He indicated that she will soon be elected as president of their tiny community. They bult a sukkah and welcomed a visiting Israeli to dinner for Sukkot.
They maintain ties with world Jewry via information they collect in both the US embassy and at the American Club. Here they also find other Jews, like themselves, looking to find a home far away from home.
Even without a sifrei Torah, they indicate that they manage to try their best to observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Shabbat in a 'kosher way.'
Once a month they have Erev Shabbat together in Mrs Ellise's home. Other Jews they are introduced to are eager to come and share with them. They meet each other with surprise and almost laugh that there really are others like themselves desperate to connect with their Judaism.
(Issue November 2008)