Fifty Indonesian Jews gathered for a Passover seder in Jakarta on Friday night, with a guest list that included US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and several local Muslim clerics.
“Men and women of different faiths have gathered to celebrate an ancient Jewish tradition here in a Muslim-majority country. It is a very powerful thing,” said guest of honor Blinken, who is Jewish.
Suhai Suat, a Muslim cleric who attended the seder, told Israel’s Channel 10 news that all world religions aspire to live in peace, and “therefore, we must not constitute a threat to our fellow men.”
Johannes Sengi, one of the Indonesian Jews who attended, said the community “wants to live as equals. It is our identity; we need our faith because it is a basic human right.”
The festive Jewish ceremony took on special significance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, just three years after radical Islamists pressured authorities to shut down the only synagogue in the Indonesian capital.
Members of the country’s tiny Jewish community, which numbers only about 200 people, have kept a low profile following the closure of the Ohel Yaakov synagogue and a series of anti-Semitic attacks.
Indonesian Jews are mostly descendants of Iraqi and Dutch Jews who immigrated in the 1920s, according to the (Hebrew) news report.
Since Judaism is not recognized as one of the country’s official faiths, the identity cards of most of the country’s Jews identify them as Christians.
An Indonesian Jewish woman, who was not named in the TV report, said Indonesian people’s perceived hatred of Israel and Judaism stems from ignorance.
“When they say ‘I hate Jews, I hate Israel,’ you can’t really judge them, because they haven’t actually met any Jews at all,” she said.
Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the establishment of official diplomatic relations with Indonesia, a call rebuffed by Jakarta.
Netanyahu met with a visiting delegation of reporters from Indonesian newspapers and hailed the “many opportunities for bilateral cooperation, especially in the fields of water technology and high-tech.”
Earlier in March, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Knesset members that Israel had secret ties with Jakarta, while defending Jerusalem’s decision to block Indonesia’s foreign minister from entering the West Bank because she did not plan to visit Jerusalem during her visit to the region.
Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi had been slated to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki to inaugurate an honorary consulate in Ramallah, but was forced to move the meeting to Amman