Karen Hochberg, who founded a Memorial Day weekend march for Israel in her Jamaica Estates neighborhood a dozen years ago, now coordinates larger-scale marches around the world for the nonprofit group Afikim to honor Israel’s anniversary.
She was surprised when Jewish leaders in Rome informed her last month that the march there was cancelled for internal political reasons.
But Hochberg, whose husband Shlomo is spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, was more surprised by a note she received on the website of Afikim, a Manhattan-based independent “incubator” organization — someone in Indonesia wanted to sponsor a march there. Hochberg is the group’s director of community programming.
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure” if the message from Ungunn Dahana, who identified himself as a supporter of Israel who lives in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, “was for real,” Hochberg says. An exchange of subsequent e-mails has convinced her that Dahana’s message was no prank, and that he intends to sponsor Indonesia’s first-such pro-Israel event in the coming weeks.
If it actually takes place, Hochberg says, it will mark a Muslim country’s first participation in the Afakim-sponsored Walk the Land: Celebrate LIFE! (walktheland65.org), which marks the Jewish state’s 65th birthday.
Dahana, a Jakarta resident, has not decided when or where the Walk for Israel will take place in Indonesia’s capital, he tells The Jewish Week in an e-mail message; the 100 communities around the world, some 70 of them in the U.S., are holding their marches throughout the spring.
Dahana says he’s seeking a police permit for the event, which he hopes to attract 100 people.
“I don’t have [an] organization,” he says. “So, the police can’t give permission, because permission [is] given to the organization, not to [an] individual.” To surmount this, he’s founded a group he calls the Jerusalem-Jakarta Initiative (israelia.web.id).
Lacking a permit, Dahana plans to hold the march in a “hidden place” with “few participants.”
Dahana, who does not identify his religious background but apparently is not Jewish, says he represents “many” other pro-Israel Muslim Indonesians. “We are Indonesian people who support and love Jewish people. Radical Islam in Indonesia is not [an] obstacle. They are [a] minority.”
Indonesia (population 240 million) does not have diplomatic relations with Israel; Indonesia’s constitution recognizes six religions, including Islam, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism; the country’s small Jewish community of a score of people is not included.
Afakim (afikimfoundation.org) has sent Dahana the package of items all participants in the Walk the Land event receive: Israeli flags, vinyl murals, T-shirts and packets of Israeli seeds.
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Hochberg says Indonesia will join the ranks of other once-unlikely sites for a pro-Israel event, such as formerly communist Croatia and Moldova, which were hostile to Israel.
“Passion for Israel,” she says, “exists everywhere.”
Afikim will participate in the June 2 Celebrate Israel parade in Manhattan sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council. The Young Israel of Jamaica Estates will sponsor its 12th annual L’Chaim 5kRunWalk for Israel on May 26 in Cunningham Park.