THE NUMBER of empty seats at the opening of the sixth Aki-No Japanese Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque last week was embarrassing. Organizers attributed the paucity of attendance to weather forecasts and fears of a new virus variant.
Nonetheless, Deputy Ambassador of Japan Seiichiro Takahashi and Cultural Attaché Yoshiko Higuchi, along with several embassy staff members, made the trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It was interesting to see that among the couples in the audience were several Japanese with non-Asian partners.
Takashaki, who arrived in Israel in October, said that he was pleased to discover that Israelis are not only interested in Japanese technology, sport, culture and cuisine, but they actually love things Japanese. Higuchi, who is a fluent Hebrew-speaker, visited Israel many times before his recent appointment. Totally familiar with Japan’s film industry, he said the 10 films chosen for the festival are a reflection of modern Japan, and that the opening film, The Asadas, reminded him of his own family.
Written and directed by Ryota Nakano and starring Kazunari Ninomiya as Masashi Asada, a talented, highly sensitive photographer, with a somewhat off-the-wall family whose members are willing to pose in staged scenes as dancers, firefighters, athletes and more, this delightful film, with its surprise ending, introduces audiences to middle-class Japanese life before and after the tsunami of 2011.
Ninomiya who is known for his ability to convey meaning through his expressive eyes is a singer, songwriter, film and television actor, voice actor, presenter and radio host who has appeared in numerous productions.
The festival closes on January 15.
■ THE CHAOTIC situation related to ever-changing virus regulations, the escalating crime rate in the Arab community, attacks by Arabs against Jews and by Jews against Arabs, coupled with all the aggravation caused by construction, is not without the occasional point of light.
Jerusalem Foundation president Shai Doron reports that despite all the aforementioned, the regular meetings of the foundation’s Ambassadors of Learning joint study program, which brings Jewish and Arab school principals and teachers together to promote shared education initiatives for Jewish and Arab children, have continued without disruption.
Launched seven years ago by the foundation and the Jerusalem Education Authority, it now includes more than 100 schools, ranging from elementary to high school, with the participation of thousands of principals, teachers and students who are all committed to continuing with the program.
■ THOUGH KNOWN primarily as a medical historian, Kenneth Collins, a native of Glasgow who lives in Jerusalem, has also written a book about the history of the Glasgow Jewish community. Now, he has turned to something that is even more personal.
His latest book, Zev’s Children, is the story of a truly international family. His Ukrainian-born great-grandfather Zeev, who settled in Glasgow in 1912, had 15 children who moved to different parts of the world. Growing up in Glasgow, Collins was aware that he had relatives in Argentina, America, Israel, Russia and France.
With the help of cousins in these countries, he was able to trace considerable family history, dating back for nearly three centuries. The book introduces readers to Zionist pioneers, a Holocaust survivor in France, professionals, businessmen, communists and a few eccentrics.
Collins is a member of the Jerusalem-headquartered Israel branch of the Jewish historical society, which has decided to continue its meetings via Zoom until the summer. His book will be launched on Zoom on Wednesday, January 26 at 7:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. GMT).
■ JUST AHEAD of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and to mark the first anniversary of the death of mega philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Educational Leadership Academy was launched last week at Yad Vashem as the most recent initiative of the institution’s International School for Holocaust Studies.
The academy was conceived out of concern that, with the passing of time and the enormously diverse flow of information through social media, there is evidence of a worrying decline in the number of people aware of Holocaust history. Moreover, there is a danger that they could be influenced by fake news about the Holocaust which is being increasingly posted on social media platforms by Holocaust deniers and antisemites. Unfortunately, Holocaust survivors who can testify to what happened to them and others during the Holocaust are gradually fading away.
Some 100 people, including Miriam Adelson and Natan Sharansky, who is chairman of the board of the Babyn Yar Memorial Center, attended the launch ceremony, at which Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan, in emphasizing the importance of Holocaust education, reiterated the need for accuracy in combating fake news about the Holocaust.