This year marks another milestone for the cordial ties between the State of Israel and the Republic of the Philippines with the dedication of “Open Doors” monument on June 21, 2009. Secretary Joseph Durano of the Department of Tourism is set to fly to Israel to be the Guest of Honor at the said inaugural ceremony which will take place at the Rishon Lezion Holocaust Memorial Park.
The “Open Doors” monument, which is the first Philippine monument to rise in Israel, commemorates the courage, hospitality and the determination of the Philippine Government through President Manuel L. Quezon to give humanitarian support for the European Jews seeking refuge from the Holocaust in the 1930s.
Through President Quezon’s open door policy in 1939, thousands of Jews escaped the Nazi horror and found refuge in the Philippines. (Preparations were made to accept 10,000 Jews a year, but only 1,200 made it to Manila. Sixty-seven Jewish refugees were among the 100,000 Manila residents who died during the 1945 US liberation of Manila and the heavy bombing that preceded it, which also destroyed Manila’s only synagogue, Temple Emil.)
The warm hospitality of the Filipino people undoubtedly shed light to one of the darkest and most difficult period in Jewish history. Fortunately, memoirs of such episodes were documented by Frank Ephraim, a Holocaust survivor himself, through his book “Escape to Manila.”
In 2005, this same book literally opened the doors for the creation of the “Open Doors” monument through the initiative of former Ambassador Antonio Modena. This commemorative project, which was approved to rise in the city of Rishon LeZion (fourth largest city in Israel), took four years in the making as the Philippine and Israeli government, together with Filipino and Jewish business accolades, painstakingly combined their forces in order to bring Ambassador Modena’s vision into fruition.
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 “Open Doors” monument overflowed with support by the Filipino and Jewish communities, especially those who are witnesses of the iconic Filipino hospitality.
Indeed, the “Open Doors” monument 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.