18 February 2018 - 4 Adar 5778 - ד' אדר ה' אלפים תשע"ח
Bahrain interfaith group visits Israel E-mail

An interfaith group from the Gulf state of Bahrain paid an unprecedented public visit to Israel in December, receiving a warm welcome but generating uproar across the Arab world.

The visit came at a time when Israel was boasting of warming, albeit covert, ties with moderate Arab countries in a shared front against archrival Iran. But the heavy criticism unleashed on Arab social media, along with the low profile the group took, showed the limits to how far that goodwill can go.

The 25 participants, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims as well as Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, were guests of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights group. The group gathered at a restaurant overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City walls for dinner and a candle-lighting ceremony marking the first night of the festival of Chanukah.

While organisers and participants said the three-day trip was non-political and unconnected to the Bahrain government, it was nonetheless a possible test case for other Gulf Arab nations in seeing what could happen if they move toward recognising Israel.

“People have been asking us, ‘Oh why have you been here now, after there was an announcement made by the White House?’,” Betsy Mathieson, president of “This is Bahrain”, told The Associated Press, referring to President Donald Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

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Xi’s vision for China’s global future, and what it means for Israel E-mail

On 24 December, the Israel Asia Center, in partnership with the Chinese Media Center, held an event in Tel Aviv to explore the outcomes of last October’s Chinese Communist Party National Congress, and the implications for the global economy and Israel.

In October, the Chinese Communist Party leadership gathered for its 19th Party Congress – the country’s most important event, occurring every five years. What emerged from the Congress were not just a new Central Committee, Politburo and Standing Committee of the Politburo (SCPB) – the most powerful organ in the world’s most populous nation – but a blueprint for China’s economic development and transformation as a global leader by 2050, a roadmap to “make China great again”, and a clear message that President Xi is China’s most powerful leader since Chairman Mao Zedong, according to the event organisers.

The Tel Aviv event in December featured an interactive panel discussion that explored the “grim challenges” cited by President Xi that China is current grappling with, China’s economic reforms, the increasingly dominant role President Xi Jinping and China are playing on the global stage, and what this all means for Israel. The event also looked at the potential of a China that will play a more assertive role in the Middle East, and what the impact will be on the Israeli economy in this “era of Xi Jinping thought”.

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Weddings in abundance for B’nei Menashe couples E-mail

Nine B’nei Menashe couples, all of whom immigrated to Israel from Manipur, India, last year, were married in a group ceremony late last year at Shavei Israel’s absorption centre in Kfar Hasidim. The ceremony took place under Jewish law in the wake of the immigrants’ formal conversion.

The couples were Batyah and Hillel Haokip, 23 and 25; Daniel and Mayah Haokip, 38 and 36; Gideon and Tehila Haokip, 42 and 37; Sara and Yoel Khongsai, both 25; Shimson and Hadasha Lhanghal, 29 and 26; Asher and Orit Lhouvum, 44 and 43; Avshalom and Galith Singson, 41 and 34; Eliazar and Tabitha Singson, 47 and 45, and Itzhak and Mala Vaiphei, 42 and 43. Some of the brides had their hair and makeup done and wore wedding gowns, while others wore traditional B’ nei Menashe skirts with white tops.

They were among 162 new immigrants who had arrived in Israel thanks to Shavei Israel. They all hail from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, on the border with Burma, which is home to the largest concentration of B’ nei Menashe in India. The new immigrants all plan to settle in Tiberias, Israel, after they leave Kfar Hasidim.

“After realising their dream of making Aliyah and returning to the Jewish people, the B’ nei Menashe couples now have an additional reason to celebrate,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. “They have now been remarried in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony which symbolises the new lives they are building here in the Jewish state. We wish them a hearty Mazel Tov and much joy, health and success here in Israel.”

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French children’s magazine calls Israel “not a real country” E-mail

A French children’s magazine has been withdrawn from newsstands after it admitted a “mistake” in writing that Israel wasn’t “a real country”.

The news editor for Youpi, a magazine for children aged from five to eight, told Associated Press that the January 2018 issue was being removed from kiosk sales in France and Belgium after writing that Israel was among a few states in the world that aren’t “real countries”.

Bertrand Fichou said he humbly apologised for the mistake and that his intention was not to challenge the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

He said: “I’ll blame myself for it all my life.” The two-sentence text caused an uproar on social media, and French Jewish group CRIF asked the publisher to remove the January issue from sale.

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United Nations International Holocaust Memorial Day observed E-mail

As in previous years, a special programme in Hong Kong to mark this year’s United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day was held on 25 January, organised by the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Resource Centre (HKHTC). The theme for this year was “Holocaust Remembrance: Resistance and Resilience”.

At the Sai Ying Pun Community Complex, the packed auditorium included a mix of Jewish community members, local residents, foreign consulate representatives, rabbis and government officials. In special attendance was Under Secretary for Home Affairs for the Government of Hong Kong SAR, Jack Chan, who also gave an address.

The MC for the evening was April Kaminsky, Director HKHTC, a very active figure responsible for Communications and Events at HKHTC since its establishment. The evening’s programme started with an address by April.

Karsten Tietz, Deputy Consul General of Germany, introduced Werner Reich, the key note speaker. In an emotional and moving address, he shared his incredible story. Weich and his family were residents of Berlin, Germany, when the Nazis came to power in 1933. The family moved to Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and in 1941, a year after his father died, the Nazis occupied the country.

In 1943 he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Theresienstadt and then AuschwitzBirkenau, where he was one of 89 who survived “selections” by Dr Josef Mengele most of the other 6,000 perished. Werner was later transferred to Auschwitz I. In January 1945, after a seven-day death march, he ended up in Austria at the Mauthausen concentration camp. After liberation in May 1945, Werner returned to Yugoslavia, and then to England, where in 1955 he married another survivor, one of the Kindertransport saved by Sir Nicholas Winton. They moved to the US, where he became an engineer. He has two sons and four grandchildren. His is a story of courage, resilience and survival.

Ahuva Spieler, Consul General of Israel to Hong Kong, provided an introduction of the Candle Dedications. The lighting of the Memorial Candles was performed by Consuls from Poland, The Netherlands and the US and other community members. A special candle was lit by Dr Emilie Tran, Cambodia survivor.

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