Filipinos in Israel

Speaking Out
By Ignacio R. Bunye

(Continued from last week)

A career diplomat, Ambassador Petronila Garcia served for a long
time as Consul General in Israel . She moved to Cairo in 2004 where
she served a four -year stint as Ambassador to Egypt and
concurrent non-resident Envoy to Sudan.

Returning to Israel on March 19, 2009 as the current Ambasssador,
her immediate priority was the completion and inauguration of the
Open Doors monument initated by her predecessor, the late Ambassador
Antonio Modena.

Through her kindness , we were accompanied to the “Open Doors”
monument by our Embassy’s Cultural Attache, Chester Omaga Diaz.

Chester explained that the “Open Doors” monument consists of three
doors of increasing heights opening inward to form a triangle, a
common feature in both the Philippine and Israeli flags.

Each door represents an important phase in RP-Israel friendship, Chester said.

The first door symbolizes the Open Door Policy of President Quezon
who declared in 1939 : “…it is my hope and indeed my expectation, that
the people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to
be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to
extend a hand of welcome…”

The second door represents the Philippines’ act in the United Nations
in 1947 when it cast what is generally regarded as the “swing vote”
which led to the United Nations’ recognition of the fledgling State of

The third door represents the continuing friendly ties between the two
countries. This is exemplified by the assistance extended to
Israel’s elderly and disabled through the more than 30,000 Filipino
caregivers now based in Israel.

In front of each door are etched footprints of three individuals
representing three generations of “Manilaners” or Jews who sought
refuge in the Philippines: George Lowenstein, who arrived in 1939.
Max Weissler who arrived in 1941 at the age of 11. And Dorlyliz
Goffer, a granddaughter of a holocaust survivor. Goffer was born in
the Philippines of Filipino-Israeli parents.

During the inauguration of the Open Doors Monument, Weissler, Ruth
Ephraim, widow of author Frank Ephraim, as well as several
descendants of “Manilaners” attended. So did Mayor Dov Zur, at that
time the Mayor of Rishon Lezion, Israel Knesset Member Michael Eitan
and special guest, then Tourism Secretary Ace Durano.

We later had the honor and pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. Max
Weissler at the dinner hosted by Ambassador Garcia at her official
residence that same evening. Max spoke fluent Filipino. He told us
that he learned to speak Tagalog before he even learned English. He
profusely thanked the Filipinos who welcomed the “Manilaners”.

The dinner was a warm gathering of Filipinos who have established
themselves in Israel as well as Israelis who have contributed much to
deepening Filipino-Israel friendship and understanding.

Former Ambassador Yitza Orin, Simi Salpeter and Jerusalem Post’s Dr.
Carl Hoffman also graced the occasion.

As Director of the Rishon LeZion Foundation, Orin also greatly helped
facilitate the erection of the Open Doors memorial.


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