The world’s largest menorah and who funded it?

Indonesia’s full of WTF moments.

Here’s another from Manado, North Sulawesi:

 menorah in Manado, Indonesia

Is that really what you think it is?

Yep it sure is. The world’s largest menorah!

A new, 62-foot-tall menorah, possibly the world’s largest, rises from a mountain overlooking the Indonesian city of Manado, courtesy of the local government.

Flags of Israel can be spotted on motorcycle taxi stands, one near a six-year-old synagogue that has received a face-lift, including a ceiling with a large Star of David.

A menorah - which is a seven-branched candelabrum made of gold and a symbol of Judaism since ancient times - is the emblem of the modern state of Israel and certainly not the thing you’d expect to find in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

But is the construction of the huge menorah really so surprising?

Well, perhaps not.

Because Indonesia and Israel, while not having diplomatic relations, have nonetheless discreetly shared military and economic ties over the decades.

Under former strongman Suharto, strong ties were established between Mossad and Indonesia’s special forces.

This explain why this unit of Indonesia’s armed forces is equipped with Israeli Uzi machine guns (Along with 65 other nations, Indonesia is listed on Wikipedia as a buyer of Uzis).

But an Indonesian ban on all private trade between the two countries remained in place.

After the downfall of Suharto, however, relations between the two countries started to improve.

Then in February 2000:

Indonesian Minister of Industry and Trade Yusuf Kalla removed all commercial barriers in the private sector between the two countries, and companies in Indonesia and Israel began trading with one another directly.

A month later, the first bilateral protocol agreement was signed between Asuransi Jasindo and Assure Ltd. of Israel, providing export credit insurance for importers and exporters from both countries.

The same month, Asuransi Jasindo announced it was opening its first international representative office in Israel.

This was all the more remarkable given the increasingly anti-Jewish sentiment in Indonesia at the time - owing largely to the bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But it didn’t prevent another major military deal from being struck in 2006 (under the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono):

“The deal (to purchase Israeli Searcher Mark II drones) was done through a Filipino distributor. Indonesia’s Defense Ministry chose Philippines-based Kital Philippines Corp. which will also supply a command post, controlling equipment, infrared cameras and heat-tracking devices. No financial details were disclosed. Israeli drone manufacturers declined comment. The deal was a surprise to some because Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, has long supported Palestinian independence efforts and does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.”

Although trade between the two countries has been booming, most private companies operating in Indonesia try to keep the details secret.

One state owned company, in particular, PT ******, in addition to the ****** and ******* Groups, made efforts to conceal the trade by undertaking business with Israel indirectly.

To further cement the business ties between the two countries, an Indonesia-Israeli Chamber of Commerce has even been set up.

 Indonesia-Israeli Chamber of Commerce
Yet Indonesia’s ban on Israeli passport holders from visiting Indonesia remains in force.

There are still no diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But that doesn’t stop Israelis who (also) hold passports of other countries from entering Indonesia.

In May earlier this year, a group calling itself the “Jewish community group” made the headlines after it requested permission to “host an event marking Israel’s Independence Day.

The request was duly denied by the Indonesian police but only on “a technicality”.

Manado is a staunchly Christian part of Indonesia and there are no Jews there.

A synagogue has, however, been founded just out of the city by some “10 Indonesians still struggling to learn about Judaism”.

10 people? How could they manage to come up with the funds for the US$150,000 it cost to build the huge menorah?

And there are not many Jews in Indonesia who could help either (there is reportedly a tiny group of around 20 hapless souls in Surabaya who have faced religious persecution and had their century-old synagogue forcibly shut down).

One of the leading lights in international investment is the brilliant George Soros.

“GEORGE SOROS has been a prominent international supporter of democratic ideals and causes for more than 30 years. His philanthropic organization, the Open Society Foundations, supports democracy and human rights in over 70 countries”.

In February 2010, he hit the headlines for saying that Indonesia was once again on the “global investment radar screen”.

But Soros is one of the good guys.

One of his planned investments in peatland restoration.


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