Israel’s Vietnamese Community Turns Forty-Five

July 15 2022

After North Vietnam invaded and dismantled their country in 1975, hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese fled—often on rickety or unseaworthy vessels. Israel opened its doors to a number of them, many of whom still live there with their descendants. Avi Kumar writes:

From 1977 to 1979, Menachem Begin permitted entry to around 360 of the so-called Vietnamese “boat people,” in the aftermath of the Communist takeover of the Southeast Asian nation. At the time, Begin justified his actions by citing parallels with Jews struggling to find refuge during the Holocaust. Of those granted asylum in Israel, most settled around Jaffa and Bat Yam; the community is today estimated to number around 150 to 200.

Tongi Noyan, twenty-eight, [the child of two such refugees], works as a real-estate broker in Tel Aviv. He speaks perfect Hebrew, with no accent, and a casual observer might initially assume—given his Asian appearance—that he is a Jew from some far-flung corner of the Diaspora. Or perhaps a recent convert.

The Noyan family opened a Chinese restaurant in Herzliya in 1985, called Asia. After more than three decades in business, it closed in 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tongi has fond memories of helping out after school, as a child. During the Chinese New Year, they made Vietnamese dishes due to popular demand, including pho soup, banh bao (dumplings), and Vietnamese spring rolls. Tongi also recalls how American Jews would follow the same tradition they had back home and go out for Chinese food on Christmas Day.

While noting that many members of the community have since left Israel for the United States, France, or other countries, including Vietnam, to him the Jewish state is home. “Of course, I’m a true Israeli. I love surfing in the morning, I speak Hebrew, I was born and raised here,” he said.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli society, Menachem Begin, Refugees, Vietnam

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount