ISRAEL and I
מאת: HIROAKI IWAMOTO
תורגם מיפנית לאנגלית
The Board of Directors of the Japan-Israel
Friendship Association has just started afresh with new members.
Upon this occasion it was suggested that each new director should
describe his or her relationship with Israel for an article in the
monthly bulletin of the Association. I was the first to be asked to
do so. At first, I felt a little hesitant in sharing my private
thoughts as I myself do not fully understand why I am so concerned
about, impressed and even moved to tears by the State of Israel.
Israel is such a dear country for me. So I decided to introduce my
activities related to Israel.
My first encounter with Israel was soon
after WWII was over. I learned that the State of Israel had been
established and this made a very strong impression on me. Besides, I
was shocked and aflame with anger at the Nazis’cruel treatment of
the Jews which was beyond description.
Research on Micro-algae
The year after Israel was founded. I came
upon a new magazine , published in the USA, in which I read an
article which described the importance of research on the
micro-alga, Chlorella, as a source of protein and a natural resource
for the edible oil and fat industry. The author stated that this
type of research should be carried out in Israel and Japan. This
suggestion led me to begin my association with Israel.
Research on the use of Chlorella was
started in 1950 in Japan by Dr Tamiya of the Department of Science,
Tokyo University and .I. At almost the same time, research on
Chlorella was begun in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
However, it was the United States that led the way.
In Japan, Dr.Schenck, who was the Chief of
the Department of Natural Resources of the US Forces in Occupied
Japan, had proposed to Dr Tamiya to start a project on Chlorella and
had offered funding for the research. Thus, the research was begun
in 1951 and was also assisted by the Ministry of Education of the
Research into the utilization of
micro-algae has been continuing for fifty years. For the first
twenty-five years most of the research was conducted in Israel,
Japan and Germany with the assistance of their respective
In 1957, a large institute for research
and the production of Chlorella, with ten researchers, including
myself,was constructed in Japan with the full assistance of the
Japanese Science and Technology Agency. In Israel, a huge sewage
treatment plant utilizing Chlorella was constructed.
In Germany, trial studies on Chlorella
were begun to examine countermeasures to offset the shortage of
protein in developing countries, such as Thailand, India and Peru.
Scientists were sent to these countries to tackle the problem
Currently, Israel and Japan are conducting
the most advanced research on the utilization of Chlorella.
Relations with Israel
Japan is one of the very few countries in
which the scientific name, Chlorella, is well known. The component
of Chlorella which gives it’s physiological action, is beta-glucan,
which was first discovered thirty years ago and has been actively
investigated ever since. Beta-glucan is the first component of
polysaccharide to be discovered. It stimulates the immune system and
scavenges free radicals, topics which are now of great interest.
On the other hand, in Israel, the study of
a special micro-alga, Dunaliella, which contains a very high
concentration of beta-carotene, was started many years ago. At
present, Dunaliella is produced in Israel and distributed and sold
in Japan by a Japanese company. As I was the chief advisor of this
company I became deeply involved in this enterprise、especially in
the commercial production of Dunaliella in Israel. Let me explain
how this all began.
Incidentally,as is well-known, after Israel was
founded, many Arab countries threatened they would break off trade
or refuse oil to countries that traded with Israel. Compared with
other countries, Japan was shamefully weak and after the oil crisis
in 1973, economic relations between Japan and Israel were almost
In those days, I was looking for a promising subject of
investigation in the field of microbiology, which is my speciality.
For this reason, I had visited Israel several times. During a visit
to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, I learned about Dunaliella .
Soon after, at an international conference held in
Kyoto in 1978, I heard a new hypothesis put forward by an Israeli
scientist, that the protein, beta-carotene glycerol, could be
produced from Dunaliella . The lecturer was the head of the
Dapartment of Food Development at a large Israeli company. I invited
him to my home in Tokyo and we spent a day together, engaged in a
lively debate. Since then we have been good friends.
Soon after this meeting I started research on
Dunaliella , and in the autumn of 1986, I investigated the
commercial value of natural beta-carotene. I invited an Israeli
scientist to my laboratory who had reported on the possibility of
using Dunaliella commercially and wished to visit me. I introduced
him to the company, to which I was the advisor, which was interested
in the commercial use of micro-algae and we proposed starting an
enterprise for the production of beta-carotene from Dunaliella.
I considered this Japanese company to be most suitable
to adopt a venture business. I sincerely wished to help them to
succeed with this project although they had no knowledge of Israel
or any experience in international commerce. The executive of the
company agreed to my proposal immediately, and at the end of the
same year he visited the Israeli enterprise with me for talks and
negotiation. I was most impressed with the enterprising spirit of
the executives of this young company compared to the large Japanese
corporations who were too scared of doing business with Israel
because of the Arab trade embargo.
Realisation of My Dream
One year later, in 1988, the company began
importing Dunaliella powder from Israel and started to produce it on
a commercial basis. The next year they invested in the company that
was cultivating Dunaliella in a factory in Eilat. Finally, they
took over this company as their subsidiary.
This was the realisation of my dream. And
the company which made the purchase had the honor of being the first
Japanese company to invest in Israel. For all the persons in Israel
who had worked on this project for ten years, their plan was
realised at last with the assistance of Japan.
The Israeli Government, which had provided
research funds for the project, and the Weizmann Institute, where
basic research is continuing, were very pleased that the research
had led to commercial success and their efforts had been rewarded.
Of course, I was confident that this
business would benefit the Japanese company. For ten years since
then , ongoing research has revealed that the beta-carotene
contained in Dunaliella is far more abundant, and with more
effective anti-oxidant properties, than that found in
brightly-colored vegetables and fruits and, needless to say, the
synthetic variety It is certain that Dunaliella‘s most important
function is as an anti-oxidant. I sincerely hope that the scientific
name, Dunaliella, will become well-known all over Japan together
with the name of it’s mother country, Israel.
Israeli Friends are My Treasures
The northern half of Palestine which had
been lying waste is now covered in lush greenery due to the efforts
of Israel. And green tracts of land are continuing to increase in
The first prime minister of Israel, David
Ben-Gurion, lived in the middle of the Negev desert , firmly
believing that the future of Israel would be opened for those people
who lived in the desert. The graves of Ben-Gurion and his wife can
be found at the Institute of Desert Research at the Sde-Boker campus
of Ben Gurion University.
One of the most important departments at
the University is the Micro-Algal Biotechnology Laboratory. Also, at
the Weizmann Institute, unique basic research is continuing on the
property of Dunaliella to withstand highly saturated salt water. At
the Oceanographic Institute, in Haifa, important work on the
utilisation of micro-algae is continuing.
The sincere and warm friendship I have
with professors at these institutes and others who are conducting
clinical trials with Dunaliella at the Hadassah Hospital in
Jerusalem, with many other good Israeli friends, especially the
workers at the Dunaliella factory in Eilat, is a source of
irreplaceable delight and a treasure for my wife and I. These
friendships are a source of deep emotion , happiness and joy which I
cannot experience in Japan.
The importance of Israel in my life is not
only because of the above but also the fact that the Jewish people
regained the Land of Israel, their ancestral homeland, after
enduring hardship and persecution for nearly 3000 years. It is
strange to say, but there are many Japanese who are moved and
pleased by the founding of Israel as are the Jewish people.
I wonder if there is any other country
where many people sincerely pray for Israel? There may be unknown
relationships between Israel and Japan. Many theories abound with
much conjecture and analysis about a tribe of Jews who came to Japan
from Israel thousands of years ago.
In 1953, on my way back to Japan from the
USA, I visited a Japanese clergyman, Eiji Kawamorita,who was living
in the United States He gave me a mimeograph of his research on
ancient songs in Japanese and Hebrew. I was amazed and interested to
learn of this unexpected view.
I am possessed by the wonder and charm
of Israel and cannot be separated from the country and it’s people
now. I have deep interest in and a special intimacy with Israel.
I have outlined accurately my relationship
with Israel. However, I became an admirer of Israel before these
I joined the Japan-Israel Friendship
Association thirty years ago when it was first established.
However, three years earlier I realised a dream I had had for over
ten years to visit Israel. I was very impressed upon this first
visit. I met a wonderful Israeli lady and our friendship has
continued for thirty-three years since then. This meeting was the
beginning of my relationship with Israel.
At present my house is a small and
private “Beit Shalom”
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