Marion and I, along with some friends, took an eight-day trip to Israel at the end of January. It was a trip I had been wanting to take for a long time. We were able to visit some of the sites whose names I had come across over the years in the course of my Christian journey.
The trip turned out to be fulfilling, but at the same time somewhat disappointing.
Our tour guide, Ophir, was very well-informed and gave us detailed stories related to all the places we visited. I would guess he was in his forties and he had four children. He graduated from a University in Jerusalem and was an attorney.
Interestingly, he had lived in the Silicon Valley for 3½ years in a home exchange arrangement with an American family who occupied his home in Israel. Ophir was very informative, but in his eagerness to tell us about the many places we visited was at times a bit overwhelming.
My disappointment about the trip came from having Ophir explain each of the places involving significant places in Jesus’ life: Where he was born, where he preached, where he was tried, where he was crucified, and so forth. Because Jerusalem is ancient, and was occupied by so many countries over the centuries, to say where exactly any of the significant events occurred was not possible. So as Ophir stated, our experience would have to be a spiritual journey.
The news we in the U.S. get concerning this part of the world becomes distorted because it tends to focus on the newsworthy and sensational. Jerusalem is divided into four quarters, shared by Muslims, Christians and Jews. Our U.S. news highlights the conflicts. We were able to see the people, though of different backgrounds and religions, who appeared to live in harmony with one another.
The part of the trip that affected me the most was visiting the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. The museum covered the Holocaust story in agonizing detail.
Over the years I have been able to read about how the Bible has been written to transfer the blame for Jesus’ crucifixion from the Romans to the Jews and how this resulted in the Christian world turning its backs on the annihilation of 6 million Jews. As a Christian, this was troubling to me as I toured the museum.
A redeeming part of the tour came when I discovered there was a forest on the grounds composed of trees planted in memory of those who had sheltered or rescued Jews from the Holocaust. An elderly man in the museum looked up on a computer, and printed out the story of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat for Lithuania, telling of how he issued visas to over 6,000 Jews, allowing them to find sanctuary in Japan. In 1985, the Israelis named him the “Righteous Among Nations.”
The print-out included a map of the forest area, but, unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the site where the tree planted in his memory was located.
In this connection, an addendum to this story of our trip:
On Feb. 22, our San Fernando Valley JACL Chapter sponsored a panel discussion concerning Tule Lake. On the panel was Professor Arthur Hansen of Cal State University, Fullerton, an authority on the Japanese American experience. In the course of his presentation, he noted how many American Jews have played important parts in advocating on our behalf in telling our story. Among others, he mentioned the names of Eric Muller and Roger Daniels.
In recognizing these Jews and coming to appreciate their contributions to our community, it is well to remember where they come from. It would seem to me that they were ennobled by the suffering by their people during the Holocaust, which made them want to reach out to other victims of injustice.
By the example, and considering our experience in this country, may they inspire us JAs to reach out to other communities in this world suffering from injustice.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.