Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In a Sliver of Indonesia, Public Embrace of Judaism

NYTimes  hat tip to Joseph

MANADO, Indonesia — A new, 62-foot-tall menorah, possibly the world’s largest, rises from a mountain overlooking this Indonesian city, courtesy of the local government. Flags of Israel can be spotted on motorcycle taxi stands, one near a six-year-old synagogue that has received a face-lift, including a ceiling with a large Star of David, paid for by local officials.

Long known as a Christian stronghold and more recently as home to evangelical and charismatic Christian groups, this area on the fringes of northern Indonesia has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiments as some people have embraced the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors. With the local governments’ blessing, they are carving out a small space for themselves in the sometimes strangely shifting religious landscape of Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

The trend comes as extremist Islamic groups have grown bolder in assailing Christian and other religious minorities elsewhere in Indonesia, with the central government, fearful of offending Muslim groups, doing little to prevent the attacks. Last November, extremists protesting the 2008-9 war in Gaza shut down what had been the most prominent remnant of Indonesia’s historic but little-known Jewish community, a century-old synagogue in Surabaya, the country’s second-largest city.[...]

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