Key becomes New Zealand´s third
Jewish Prime Minister
By Sharon Berger
Australian Jewish News, International section, November
[underlines below added by Radio Islam for sake of emphasis]
ON Saturday, when National Leader John Key defeated Labour's Helen
Clark and became the new prime minister of New Zealand, the small
Jewish community of approximately 7000 people were watching
Also observing was Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who called Key to congratulate him on his election win. The two leaders spoke for about 20 minutes and "we understand it was a good call"?, said spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in Canberra, Dor Shapira.
Key, whose mother - Ruth Lazar - was Jewish, fled Austria on the eve of World War II, and the prime minister-elect made a point of acknowledging her during one of the televised election debates. He has also been involved in a number of events with the Jewish community, and said recently that he would like to visit Israel where he has family.
In particular, he wants to pay tribute to his mothers family who did not survive the Holocaust at Jerusalem' s Yad Vashem. "I am very respectful of the Jewish faith and, in general, I'm very respectful of religion, but I'm just not actively religious myself,"? Key said last week.
Key is actually the third prime minister with Jewish ancestry in New Zealand. Julius Vogel served in the 1870s and Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell, who later converted to Christianity, was at the helm for two weeks in 1925.
Shapira said the embassy welcomed the new Government and looked forward to working with it and continuing the good relations between Israel and New Zealand."?
Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been tumultuous during Clark's reign, who has been in power since 1999. The relationship reached a low point when two apparent Mossad agents were caught attempting to illegally obtain a Kiwi passport.
In 2006, an arrest warrant for "war crimes"? was issued for former Israel Defence Forces chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon, who was travelling in the country. It was later rescinded.
Newly appointed Labour Leader Phil Goff also made few friends in the pro-Israel community when he incensed then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003, when as New Zealand's foreign minister, he greeted Yasser Arafat in Ramallah.
The strain has not been limited to political relations. The Jewish community has faced a number of anti-Semitic attacks, including desecration of graves and a prayer house being burnt to the ground at a Jewish cemetery, over recent years.
The Jewish community is cautiously optimistic that under the National Party and Key's direction, relations between Israel and New Zealand will improve yet they are concerned that he may want to prove he is impartial.
"Obviously there were difficulties with the Labour government in matters relating to Israel. We can only hope that those difficulties will now be a matter of the past,"? said Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
Besides the three Jewish prime ministers, Auckland has had seven Jewish mayors throughout its history.
The former rabbi of Auckland Hebrew Congregation for seven years, Jeremy Lawrence, said, "Jewish settlement of Auckland is as old as settlement of the city.
It has been a country where the settling community was always warm and welcoming, enabling the Jewish community to establish prominence."? Rabbi Lawrence, now rabbi at The Great Synagogue in Sydney, added, "The Auckland Jewish community all felt proud to identify and participate in the local community politics and discussion. It became a tradition of Jewish families to participate in civic affairs, which continues until today."