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  • Writer's pictureHirokazu Kobayashi

The lovable Jews around us!

Updated: 1 day ago

Hirokazu Kobayashi

CEO, Green Insight Japan, Inc.

Professor Emeritus and Visiting Professor, University of Shizuoka

The Israeli military's attack on Gaza has been widely condemned by the general public, including children, in many parts of the world. Although Jews founded Israel, a student demonstration took place at the graduation ceremony of Harvard University, which has a significant portion of Jewish faculty and students, to protest the university's stance in favor of the Israeli military. This is a testament to the internal divisions within the Jewish community over politics. Jews, who make up less than 0.2% of the world's population (1 in 500), have always had a significant impact on the world. The Holocaust in World War II, in which they were victims. Oppenheimer," who is also Jewish, is the subject of a movie made last year. He is called the "father of the atomic bomb," and we feel sympathy for his subsequent suffering.

They are intelligent, level-headed, and non-arrogant, and very likable. In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) established the "Special Overseas Fellowship Program," 10 young researchers from all fields were selected for this program. The program guaranteed the opportunity to study at universities around the world at the expense of the Japanese government. In addition to an annual stipend of 3.7 million yen (US$15,400 at the time) for living expenses, the program provided 1 million yen (US$4,200) for research and independent travel expenses. I was fortunate to be the only botanist in the field of botany to be selected for this program. With such treatment, any university in the world would have welcomed us. I knocked on the door of the laboratory of Professor Lawrence Bogorad (1921-2003) of Harvard University, who was at the forefront of research on genes at the molecular level, a field in its infancy. I met Professor Bogorad for the first time in February 1983. It was a cold winter in Boston, and I visited the Bogorad laboratory in the middle of it. I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Bogorad lab for less than two years, but after that, I saw him almost every year, either in Boston or Japan, until he passed away in December 2003. He was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), representing the U.S. scientific community and publishing the Science magazine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and was a longtime editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), where many Nobel Prize-winning studies have been published. His research focused on "photosynthesis," the only system by which organisms obtain energy from the sun, and elucidated chloroplasts' genetic information and expression mechanisms in plant cells, the site of photosynthesis. Professor André Jagendorf (1926-2017), a friend of Professor Bogorad, elucidated "photophosphorylation," the energy molecule ATP production mechanism in photosynthesis. He was not honored by the Nobel Prize because there was no Nobel Prize in Botany. He said he wanted to be a farmer. He is also Jewish, and I enjoyed getting to know him very well.

Historical interactions between Jews and Japanese are found on several occasions. It has been noted that the Sumerians, believed to be the roots of the Jews, were polytheistic, as were the Jomon in Japan, and that their respective anecdotes and writings show a high degree of similarity. The Jomon period dates from about 14,000 B.C. to 400 B.C., while the Sumerian civilization dates from about 5,500 B.C. to 3,000 B.C. There is a story that when the Assyrian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Israel in the 700s B.C., some of the ten tribes of Israel came to Japan, but the evidence is weak. The next point of contact is the theory that "Xu Fu," who had Jewish roots, came to Japan around 200 B.C., after the fall of the Qin Dynasty in China. Or perhaps another lineage, later the "Hata" clan, held key positions in the Yamato kingdom. The Hata are said to have built shrines, and many Hebrew words survive in the mythology. The mythology is full of Hebrew words such as "miya (palace)," "mikado (emperor)," and "mikoto (noble)." During World War II, Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese consular official in Kaunas, Lithuania, famously helped many Jews persecuted by the Nazis obtain visas and seek asylum in the country. Japan and Israel are about 9,000 km apart in a straight line. In 5,500 B.C., walking that distance would have taken two years. Today, it would take about 15 hours via Europe. I have visited Jerusalem twice and experienced its history at the Western Wall and the Old City. As a result, I recognize the personal superiority and attractiveness of the Jewish people, although I cannot support the indiscriminate invasion of the Gaza Strip.

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