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May 11, 1984 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-05-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

LOOKING IN

ROBERT ST. JOHN

Far East love affair with Israel

Thousands of people were
milling around the vast in-
ternational airport in To-
kyo, Westerners and Orien-
tals in their various colorful
native costumes all scram-
I together.
416,,uddenly a member of our
party shouted:
"Look!"
Half way across the wait-
ing room a- stream of
Japanese men and women,
single file, were shuffling in
that typical Japanese man-
ner in the direction of a gate
marked:
#1791,
ALITALIA
ATHENS
What was startling was
that each of them, males
and females, alike, wore a
brilliant blue cotton jacket,
the back emblazoned with
an immense white Magen
David, and on the front a
menorah on one breast
pocket, a Japanese red sun
on the other.
Each had a small carry-on
suitcase and a plastic,
duty-free sack containing a
bottle of rice wine, called
Saki, the favorite drink of
the Japanese.
By actual count there
were exactly 100 of them,
ranging in age from boys
and girls who looked no
more than 15 or 16, to
gray-haired old ladies and
gentlemen who might have
been in their 70s and 80s.
But most were young to
middle-aged.
It was one of the many
times I regretted I knew no
Hebrew, for those whom I
accosted let me know that
they were fluent in just two
languages, Japanese and
Hebrew.
Finally I found one of
their leaders who also spoke
English and explained
away the mystery.

They were members of an
all-Japanese organization,
Makuya, with branches all
over Japan to which many
hundreds of Japanese be-
long.

"We organize pilgrimages
to Israel all the time be-
cause our chief purpose is
friendship with Israel," said
my informant, an en-
thusiastic young man,
handsome of face and fig-
ure.
"It has nothing to do with
religion, except that we are
attracted to Israel because
it is a Jewish state and the
people believe in one god.
"Some of our members
have been to Israel several
times. I myself studied He-
brew for six years at He-
brew University.
"No one pays our way. We
raise the necessary money
in various ways. When we
are in Israel we travel
around and learn many
things. But now I must
leave you because they are
closing the gate."
As he ran toward the
Alitalia 747 that would take
them on the first lap of their
trip to Israel he half-turned
and said two wonderful He-
brew words:
"Lehitraot. Shalom!"

More than two million
Filipinos are Moslems, their
tribes in frequent armed
conflict with the
authorities. Also, the Arab
oil-producing countries
bring constant pressure to
bear on the Filipinos. There
are 300,000 Filipinos work-
ing in the Persian Gulf oil
fields and the money they
send home in one of the
country's vital sources of
foreign revenue.

Yet, despite all these

handicaps, Israel has happy
diplomatic rtrations with
the Philippines and in a
quiet way continues to
make well-appreciated con-
tributions to the people of
the 7,000 islands that com-
prise what is known as
Lupang Hiniran ("The Land
That I Love.")
As we traveled around
the principal island, Luzon,
we saw beehives
everywhere. Later we
learned that two Israeli
bee-keeping experts had
been on Luzon teaching
local beekeepers the most
scientific ways of beekeep-
ing. Other Israeli experts
have been there advising on
soil conservation and other
agricultural matters.
At the moment of our ar-
rival in Manila there were
36 Israelis working in the
metropolitan area. With
their families they com-
prised a Jewish populdtion
almost as large as that of
the entire Filipino Jewish
community.
Israeli-Filipino relations
are a two-way street, with
many Filipinos going to Is-
rael for short training
courses in down-to-earth
subjects. In Manila we met
some of the 400 Filipino
alumni of Israeli agricul-
ture. schools.
But it all has to be done in
a very low-key manner,
without publicity, this
being the handicap under
which Israelis must operate
all over Southeast Asia, al-
most everywhere in Africa,
in Latin America and in
most other parts of the
world.
Such is the power of the
opposition.

Burma has somewhere
between 100,000 and half-

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Jewish News sale . .

. for his wisdom, experience
and sound judgments. The
new editor will undoubtedly
bring to Detroit the bril-
liant innovations which
have marked him as an
editor with originality and
initiative.
Carl Alpert

The report that The
Jewish News has passed
into the orbit of the group
that produces the Baltimore
Jewish Times came as a
great surprise to all who fol-
Jewish journalism in
rica. Yet, on considera-
Haifa, Israel
tion, the development is one

to be warmly welcomed. It
constitutes a fruitful union New format .. .
between the long and solid
My wife and I have been
tradition which has made
the venerable Detroit paper subscribers to The Jewish
a respected leader in its News for 42 years, dating
field, and the successful back to • the Jewish
enterprise which in a few Chronicle tenure.
short years has catapulted
We just can't get over the
the Baltimore publication
fantastic change in your
to the very top of progress- entire newspaper format.
ive Jewish press in
The articles you are featur-
America.
ing are becoming more in-
It is good to know that formative each week. --
Philip Slomovitz will con-
The article in the April
tinue as editor emeritus.
There can be no substitute 20th issue on the Sephardic

*

community in Israel was
most informative.
Claire and Arthur
Weintrob


• •

. and focus?

We were disappointed
and disturbed to note that
this week's Jewish News did
not have a cover story on the
front page stating the fact
that the State of Israel was
celebrating its 36th an-
'niversary on Monday, May
7, 1984. Is there nothing you
have to say to the Jews who
live in Israel on this oc-
casion`?
Is double chai of Israel's
Independence not an impor-
tant enough event in Jewish
life the world over to be car-
ried as a main topic in The
Jewish News the way it
used to be?
We wonder.
Aviva and Max Gill

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a-million pagodas and tem-
ples, a great many covered
with gold leaf. (Even the
Burmese government is-
sues conflicting estimates of
the exact number.) Inside
these religious structures
are literally millions of
statues of Buddha, almost
all of them covered with
gold leaf. Yet 99 percent of
the Burmese people are
very poor, while the other
one percent are very rich,
thanks principally to the
opium trade.
Burma's lack of foreign
exchange results in empty
shelves in most shops in
Rangoon, Mandalay, Pagan
and the other cities. The
Burmese are never exactly
hungry, because local fruit
and vegetables are always
available, but butter, sugar
and most other items that
Westerners consider neces-
sities are rarely unavail-
able.
Thus it was that when we
sat down to dinner in the
home of Israeli Ambassador
Itiel Pann in Rangoon we
were not only surprised but
astounded at the gas-
tronomical five-course
dinner — that is, until it
was explained that the
Panns had had to fly to
Bangkok (about the same
number of air miles as it is
from Detroit to New York)
to obtain the ingredients for
the dinner.

In Burma, the press is ex-
tremely balanced in its
treatment of Arab-Israeli
matters: it prints nothing
on the subject.

In Burma, when a boy
reaches the ripe old age of
seven he goes through a
ceremony (called Shinpyu)
of becoming a monk. In
some ways it resembles a
Jewish bar mitzvah.
As the elaborate cere-
mony begins, the Shinpyu
boy appears in royal attire
— the best clothes the fam-
ily can afford and, always, a
golden crown on his head.
Then he disappears and is
next seen as "a prince of
Buddha," dressed in a saf-
fron robe, with his head
completely shaven.
The following morning,
now a monk, he makes the
rounds of the town begging
for food, always with his
eyes downcast and with
humble mien.
After serving for a few
weeks as a monk, the boy
has .a choice: to continue the
holy life or return to his
family and a normal non-
religious existence.
Judging by the number of
men and boys we saw in saf-
fron robes as we traveled
..around Burma, a consider-
able percentage prefer the
life of poverty and dedica-
tion to the principles of
Buddha.

5

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