President Duterte offers wreath at Open Doors Monument in Israel

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte leads the wreath-laying ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon Lezion, Israel on September 5, 2018. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

RISHON LEZION, Israel — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ended his official visit to the Jewish state by laying a wreath of flowers at the Open Doors Monument on Wednesday, September 5.

The monument is a testament to the “open door” policy of the Philippine Commonwealth under then President Manuel L. Quezon, who welcomed thousands of Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust in Europe in 1939. Quezon issued 10,000 visas to Jewish immigrants escaping the Nazi genocide.

President Duterte arrived at the monument past 3 p.m. (Israel time) accompanied by daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Zimmerman Duterte and Cabinet officials who are part of his official delegation.

The President was welcomed by Max Weissler, one of the last survivors of the Holocaust who sought refuge in the Philippines in 1941 at the age of 11. He was a refugee from Germany and grew up in the Philippines. He now lives in Hasharon, Israel.

“The message is that when we came to Manila, they accepted us nicely and took care of us. Now we are settled,” the 88-year-old Filipino-speaking Jew said when asked for his message by the media prior to the ceremony.

The President assisted by Zimmerman laid a wreath at the monument, which was unveiled on June 21, 2009, at the 65-hectare Holocaust Memorial Park here.

Weissler then had a photo opportunity with the President and the Presidential Daughter.

The monument—a geometric, seven-meter-high sculpture—was designed by Filipino artist Luis “Junyee” Yee Jr. The three open doors, in increasing heights, symbolize the courage and humanitarianism of the Filipino people in providing haven to 1,200 Jews.

The base of the monument is made of a special slab of marble shipped to Israel from the island of Romblon in the Philippines. The marble bears footprints of Weissler, George Loewenstein (one of the Jews who sought refuge in the Philippines in 1939), and Doryliz Goffer (a 10-year-old Filipino-Israeli born in the Philippines and a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors), representing the continuing friendship between the Philippines and Israel.

The triangular patterns of the open doors represent the triangles of the Philippine flag and the triangles of the star of David in the Israeli flag that were joined to mark the close and friendly relations between the Philippines and Israel as the two nations celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in August 2007.

The light represents the sun for the hope and the hospitality of the Filipino people as they welcomed the Jews during the Holocaust. The doors are painted brown to represent the Filipinos’ Malay race.

Before leaving, the President greeted several overseas Filipino workers waiting for him outside the venue, telling them to reciprocate the hospitality of the Israel government.

“I’ve heard that you are treated the best here. That is something which we should be proud of, that we are almost a special class of people to the State of Israel. Now, the only thing that I can advise you is that you are here as guests and you follow the rules and avoid [trouble],” he said. ###PND

Balikbayan Media Center
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