5 November 2019 - 7 Heshvan 5780 - ז' חשון ה' אלפים תש"פ
A new tree planted in Israel for Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara E-mail

A special tree-planting ceremony was held on 3 May to honor the late diplomat Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986), who saved the lives of many thousands of Jews during WWII.

It was held at a junior and senior high school in Beit Shemesh, central Israel. The event was organised by teachers of the school, who were shocked to learn the news in February that pine and other trees planted near Beit Shemesh in 1985 to commemorate Sugihara’s achievement have been removed. A related stone monument had also gone missing 15 years prior during preparation works for housing construction.

Vice consul of Lithuania at the time, Sugihara issued transit visas to thousands of Jewish people to help them escape Nazi persecution during WWII. The visas later came to be known as “visas for life.” Soon after that, an oak tree was planted in the presence of students of the school, as well as a commemorative monument being installed. Participants in the ceremony included Yo Osumi, minister at the Japanese Embassy in Israel.

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Yom Hashoah 2019: Seventy Years of Remembrance E-mail

Remembering those who perished in the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Memorial Day – is observed every year. It is a day of commemoration of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust as a result of actions carried out by Nazi Germany in WWII.

The day was inaugurated in Israel in 1949 and takes place on 27 Nisan, a week before Israel’s Independence Day. In Israel, flags are flown at half mast and a state ceremony is held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, home to the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority. At 10 am, air-raid sirens are sounded for two minutes and all activity comes to a halt.

Outside of the country, the day is marked with ceremonies and programmes that include the lighting of memorial candles. Jewish communities get together and solemnly observe and remember the millions of Jews who were murdered.

Countries in Asia with which Israel has diplomatic ties and embassies organise local commemoration ceremonies. In Hong Kong, the Jewish community held its Holocaust Remembrance Day on 2 May at the Jewish Community Centre. The event was organised by the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre (HKHTC). Well over 250 people attended, including many local Hong Kong residents and students, as well as many from the local Jewish community. In addition, representatives from many consulates joined the evening’s gathering.

Opening remarks and introductions were read by Alexander Floersheim, HKHTC Director. The evening’s programme started with a musical interlude a Duo for violin and cello (1941) by Gideon Klein, performed by Melody Wang (violin) and Vincent Lu (cello). Ahuva Spieler, ConsulGeneral to Israel in Hong Kong, also gave an address at the evenings programmes.

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Visit of the National Defense College Group to Hong Kong E-mail

Senior participants from the Israel National Defense College (INDC) visited Hong Kong on 16 May. This was part of their two-stop tour after being in Beijing, having met with local Chinese government officials in various interdisciplinary operations.

While in Hong Kong the delegation also met with government officials including the Departments of Transport, Infrastructure, and the Hong Kong Police Force.

A special dinner was held in honour of their visit to Hong Kong at the Jewish Community Centre, organised by the Israel Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (ICOCHK). In special attendance was Israel’s Consul General to Hong Kong, Mrs Ahuva Spieler, along with many other Hong Kong community members. Dr. Rafael Aharoni, Chairman of the ICOCHK, gave a welcoming address to the 18 participants at the dinner.

The INDC is the highest learning school within the framework of the IDF for the training of senior officers. Most of the IDF officers participating in the INDC are Colonels marked for promotion to Brigadier General. The uniqueness of the college is that it hosts not only military officers but other senior government officials as well. The INDC’s programme includes three tours abroad, two of which are for the entire group: Europe (Brussels the headquarters of NATO and the Euro Union) and the US (Washington / New York). In the third, they are divided into three groups and sent to China, Russia, and India.

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Philippine care helper receives recognition for bravery in Israel E-mail

The Philippine Embassy in Israel in April lauded a Filipina caregiver for her bravery and quick action that helped save her employer, a Holocaust survivor, from being run over by a wayward vehicle.

Charmaine Fernandez received a special citation from Philippine Ambassador to Israel, Neal Imperial, for protecting her 95-year-old employer, Missa Schindler. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that according to Missa’s son, Dr. Abraham Schindler, Fernandez was walking on a pedestrian lane with his mother when a speeding vehicle came toward them. Fernandez quickly shielded her employer with her own body, protecting her from harm. The driver managed to bring the car to a halt within inches of the two women, crushing Mrs Schindler’s walker. He was later detained by the police.

“Dr. Schindler later contacted the embassy to report the incident and [to] convey his gratitude. He shared that Ms Fernandez’s instinct to protect his mother had brought back memories of his own touching encounter with Filipinos, this time as a recipient of urgent care from Filipino medical personnel when he was attacked by a mob in Libya in the 1960s,” the DFA said.

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Israel’s National Library buys a Korean Haggadah E-mail

As the owner of the world’s largest collection of Haggadahs, the National Library of Israel is no stranger to unusual versions of the text that is read on the Festival of Passover.

The library has purchased some ten thousand Haggadahs, with some of the oldest dating back to the fifteenth century. An especially unusual version of the document has been made their latest addition as of this past April. Dubbed ‘The Korean War Haggadah’, this artefact from 1952 was recently acquired by the library, appraised for its unique value.

It is considered “extremely rare,” the Library Museum explained in a statement, although the price of the 32-page booklet has not been disclosed. According to scholars, only three copies exist in public hands worldwide.

Printed in Korea for the use of US military personnel during the War, the Haggadah was first used in a traditional Passover Seder which was organised by two Jewish chaplains. These two personnel were also responsible for producing the document.

“The Korean War Haggadah combines traditional texts with elements unique to American soldiers serving in Korea. The Haggadah, and the incredible Seder at which it was used, reminds us how meaningful Passover can be for so many different people, in so many different places and circumstances,” commented National Library Judaica expert Channa Lockshin-Bob.

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