The Philippine Embassy in Israel, in partnership with the Municipality of Rishon Lezion, organized at the weekend a special screening of Quezon's Game, a feature film that uncovers the story behind Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon's decision to provide safe haven for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust in Europe. The screening was held in Rishon Lezion's Cultural Hall, and graced by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Deputy Director General for Asia and the Pacific, Rafael Harpaz. Ambassador Harpaz recently assumed his post as DDG for Asia and the Pacific after completing his term as Israel's ambassador to the Philippines.
From 1937 to 1941, the Philippines welcomed close to 1,300 Jewish refugees under what would come to be known as the "Open Door" policy. In 2009, the municipality of Rishon Lezion decided to honor Quezon's legacy by constructing the "Open Doors Monument" in its Holocaust Memorial Park. In a recent meeting with Philippine Ambassador to Israel Macairog S. Alberto, Mayor Raz Kinstlich affirmed the municipality's continued interest to engage with the Philippines and honor Quezon's memory by signing a Sister City Agreement with the municipality of Quezon City in the Philippines.
In their opening remarks, Ambassador Alberto, Mayor Kinstlich, and Ambassador Harpaz acknowledged the presence of "Manilaner" Margot Pins-Kestenbaum and the family of fellow Manilaner Max Weissler. Ms. Pins-Kestenbaum and Mr. Weissler were among the Jewish refugees who had fled to the Philippines to escape the threat of the Holocaust in Europe, and to this day refer to themselves as "Manilaners" in fond memory of the city that became their second home. They retain close ties to the Philippines, and lent some of their personal photos and documents to the Embassy for inclusion in the temporary exhibit that was displayed in the lobby of the Rishon Lezion Cultural Hall before the screening.
"It is my sincere hope that this story will not be forgotten ... so that [the next generations] will remember what our forefathers did, learn from it and let it guide their actions in the future," Ambassador Alberto declared. "I see that the seeds of hope and kindness planted by the previous generations have grown into great trees, that bear the fruits of solidarity. May the bond between the Philippines and Israel remain strong."
Quezon's Game, which was helmed by multi-awarded director Matthew Rosen, is produced by ABS-CBN films and Kinetek Productions.
Photos courtesy: The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv