On March 25, 2016, the International School Network interviewed the Israeli Ambassador to Japan, Her Excellency Ms. Ruth Kahanoff, at her residence.
Israel and Japan Relations + Exports & Imports (By Madoka)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff commented that Israel and Japan are similar in a sense that the two countries are both culturally rich civilizations that preserve a special identity while working hard to develop innovation in sciences and technology. She explained that the two countries have “good cooperation” and that there is a large amount of “respect in Israel for Japan”.
Israel and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1952, very soon after the start of the “New Japan” after World War II. The very amicable relations between the two countries are symbolized as Prime Minister of Israel made a visit to Japan in 2014, and Prime Minister Abe of Japan visited Israel last year.
On the day before the interview, a manga event had taken place in Israel. In recent years, the two countries not only have been exchanging various knowledge in the fields of technology, sciences, innovation, and cyber security, but also have been making cultural exchanges. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff mentioned that there is an “admiration for Japanese culture” in Israel, as Japanese art and food are very popular. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff introduced to us that Japanese studies are taught in several Israeli high schools and major universities. She is even familiar with a Japanese museum in her hometown, Haifa.
Her childhood (Admiration for Japan) (By Madoka)
Since H.E. Ms. Kahanoff was child, she had been very interested in the culture of East Asia. She read various books about Japan and China and had developed a great interest and desire to travel. She introduced to us that when she was about our age, there was a very popular book she read called “Noriko-San, girl of Japan.” It was about a girl who introduced Japan through pictures. The book covered various aspects of traditional Japanese culture including dress, food, festivals, and houses. “It influenced us all,” she commented. At this time H.E. Ms. Kahanoff visited the Japanese embassy to gain material about Japan. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff added that last year, Noriiko-san from the book had been found living in Tokyo, now at the age of about 60.
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explained that she has fulfilled her dream coming to visit and live in Japan. She expressed that she would like to “do what [she] can to bring our countries closer”, and she feels “very happy” that she is in the position to make that happen.
Impression on Japan (By Kate)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff shared her impression of when she first came to Japan. Firstly, she explained that she was impressed by how polite and considerate Japanese people are to each other. She was also surprised by the clean city and commented that the Japanese should be proud of their local environment. She also mentioned her admiration for how Japanese people are friendly and kind to foreigners.
Israeli students + Languages (By Kate)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff commented that both Japanese and Israeli students are hard working. She described Israeli students further, stating that they are less shy as they often challenge their teachers and ask many questions in class. She states that in Israel, students are educated through developing their own opinions and having their own point of views. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff believes that it is very important for students to look at both sides of the argument when discussing an issue, in order to develop individual thinking. One of the main goals of Israeli education is to have individualistic students who are able to have their own concrete views when expressing an opinion.
Geography + Environmental preservation (By Madoka)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explained to us that the environmental conditions of Israel have always been harsh. Half of the country is covered in desert, and the country does not have access to ample water or natural resources. “Israel is very small”, she commented, “[so] we have to protect our environment.” H.E. Kahanoff explained that this influenced the Israelis to become more innovative and environmentally friendly.
Israel constantly develops new ideas and technologies in various fields. Israel is a pioneer in world for water conservation, irrigation, recycling of water, and desalination. This has allowed industries, including agriculture, to become very high-tech in Israel. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explained that this is “just an example of how Israel had to be innovative [with science and technology]”, because of the unideal natural conditions of the country.
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff also explained that the government of Israel is taking various measures to increase measures of environmental preservation. Education, she explained, is one important method for increasing such understanding and awareness. The government is currently encouraging the innovation of solar energy. H.E. Kahanoff explained that as aforementioned, Israel is a country with few natural resources such as oil, and therefore had the need to develop alternative sources of energy. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff commented that solar energy is very beneficial for Israel as it makes use of the many days of sunshine the country receives.
Tourism (By Madoka)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff mentioned that her country is not well known for its proper qualities. She explains that people often assume that because it is located in the Middle East that it is a dangerous place. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explains otherwise, that Israel is a safe and unique tourist destination. “People shouldn’t be worried about visiting Israel,” she explained.
There are various historical sites in the country, yet the most famous is the capital city Jerusalem. Jerusalem is about 3000 year old, and is a holy site for several religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff especially recommends visiting Jerusalem to people who are interested in the beginning of the western civilization, those who are religious, or those who are curious to understand.
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff also recommends visiting the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea extends to about 4,000 meters below sea level, and is the saltiest sea on Earth. “When you go into the water, you float,” she explained, “It is a unique experience.” H.E. Ms. Kahanoff introduced that there are various hot springs nearby as well, that are very rich in minerals.
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff also mentioned her admiration towards various other cities in Israel. The city of Haifa has beautiful shrines and gardens. She described Tel Aviv as a very lively and vibrant city. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explained that the city of Eilat, known as the Red City, is also very nice with beautiful waters. Lastly she added that tourists can visit various places in one go; “The country is very small so [one] can go from one place to the other in a very short time.”
Cultural values (By Madoka)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explained that the cultural values of Israel are similar to those of Japan. Israeli people value the importance of education, hard work, family, respect, openness, and helping each other. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff mentioned that the country is very open, with a “vibrant democracy”. As a multicultural nationality, Israelis can be heard speaking many different languages, with cultural values that have been influenced by various parts of the world.
Globalization (By Madoka)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explained to us the importance in guarding identity in the globalized world we live in today. Media such as the internet and television has been making a large influence on people worldwide. She commented that while it is important to “be part of this world”, we must be true to our identity. She mentioned that as a country with highly developed technology, Israeli people try hard to preserve their heritage, especially through education, cultural activities, and historical displays. She pointed out that learning about the past is significant as history is an important part of the country’s identity. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff explained to us that through history, one can learn lessons, appreciate what they have, and understand their origins. “Hopefully young people will appreciate their heritage while being part of the modern world”, she explained.
Yet H.E. Ms. Kahanoff conveyed to us that cultural preservation is always a challenge. She believes that in order to achieve the right balance between “preserving identity and tradition” and “keeping modern”, we must raise “great awareness”.
Games (By Madoka)
Football, basketball, and martial arts, especially judo, are popular sports played in Israel. H.E. Ms. Kahanoff mentioned that she is very proud of Israeli judo sportsmen, who have gained success in various international competitions.
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff commented that she played imagination games when she was a child. Yet she expressed that today, children in Israel play games on technology, similar to many the children in the world who have access to technological hardware.
The unique situation of Israel + World Peace (By Madoka)
“We all hope for world peace,” H.E. Ms. Kahanoff expressed, “[but] Israel needs peace more than anywhere else.” H.E. Ms. Kahanoff believes that education is one way to getting a step closer to world peace. She explained to us the importance of “education for democracy” and education that teaches the importance of “respect and acceptance” for all human beings no matter their race or religion.
Gender Equality (By Madoka)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff commented to us that she has personally never faced any problems regarding gender equality. She explained that being a woman has various advantages in society. Firstly, some people can feel relaxed and more comfortable when they sit with a woman. Next, there are greater chances for people to remember the woman. Finally, women tend to be more sensitive, and may be more capable of making more peaceful decisions.
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff mentioned that it is true in our society that women still have to be better than men to get equal treatment, but she believes that this is going to change. Her message to young girls is to have confidence in their capability. “You are capable doing of what men are doing, and maybe [you can do them] better than they do.” She explained that as long as you are professional and have believe in what you are doing, “there should be no problem”. She expressed that people should appreciate you for what you do, regardless of gender, and you should feel proud to be pursuing your dream.
Goals (By Kate)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff shared her goals as an ambassador. She stated that one of her goals is to “promote understanding of my country to the Japanese people.” She would like to have more people visit each other’s nations, especially to have more Japanese tourists go to Israel. She also aims to find more fields where Japan and Israel can cooperate and work together for the benefits of both nations. In order to make this happen, she believes that it is important to create more cooperate projects, involving more businesses.
The major goal she has is to promote peace and its importance. As Israel is a holy land for numerous world religions, she commented that she would like people to preach religion to share the importance of love, peace and acceptance for one another.
Message (By Kate)
H.E. Ms. Kahanoff shared her feelings about how she was impressed by hardworking and self-disciplined Japanese students. Her message to Japanese students is to be more open to new ideas, stay confident, and to share more opinions. She suggests students to look out to the outside world and be more assertive, take risks and ask questions. She believes that it is essential for students not to be afraid of failure as she states: “when making mistakes, we learn from it”. She wants Japanese students to develop their own individual ways of thinking. She constantly reminded us to “believe in yourself.”
Madoka Nishina 12th Saint Maur International School
Kate Shimizu 12th Seisen International School
Kurumi Onishi 11th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 6th Saint Maur International School
Moe Onishi 6th Saint Maur International School