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Filipinos to be honored for helping Jews in 1930s


Staff Writer, Sina English, May 22, 2009
MANILA, May 22 (Xinhua) -- A monument will rise in Israel next month to honor Filipinos' generous humanitarian support and hospitality to thousands of European Jews who sought refuge in the Southeast Asian country during the Holocaust in the 1930s.

The inauguration of "Open Doors" monument on June 21, 2009 would mark another milestone for the cordial ties between the Israel and the Philippines, Israel's embassy in Manila said in a statement released on Friday.

"Through (then-) President Quezon's open door policy in 1939, thousands of Jews escaped the Nazi horror and found refuge in the Philippines. The warm hospitality of the Filipino people undoubtedly shed light to one of the darkest and most difficult period in Jewish history," the embassy said. Manuel Quezon served as the country's leader from November 1935 to August 1944.

Memories of such episodes were documented by Frank Ephraim, a Holocaust survivor himself, through his book "Escape to Manila."

Philippine Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano will fly to Israel to be the guest of honor at the inaugural ceremony that will take place at the Rishon Lezion Holocaust Memorial Park.

In 2005, Ephraim's book literally opened the doors for the creation of the "Open Doors" monument through the initiative of the late Philippine Ambassador to Israel Antonio Modena.

This commemorative project -- approved to rise in the city of Rishon LeZion -- took four years in the making.

"Though Ambassador Modena passed away in February 2007, his intent to remember the values and hospitality shown by the Filipino people to the Jews at least 70 years ago persisted," the embassy said.

"The Open Doors monument overflowed with support by the Filipino and Jewish communities, especially those who are witnesses of the iconic Filipino hospitality," it added.

The Philippine monument, according to the embassy, "will continue to be a living legacy of the Filipino generosity and humanitarian assistance to the Jews."

"A lasting symbol which also commemorates more than 50 years of friendship between Israel and the Philippines," it said.