As a symbol of strong friendship between the City of Marikina and Israel, Mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro and Ambassador Rafael Harpaz planted trees at former safe haven of Jews refugees in the Philippines.
Mayor Teodoro, Ambassador Harpaz, and heads of the local government of Marikina went to Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA) where the Mariquina Hall was formerly located to plant six Narra trees.
Mayor Teodoro said the land where PSBA is currently situated was formerly the safe haven of Jewish refugees who fled from the Holocaust during World War II. It was owned by former Pres. Manuel Quezon who opened the country’s doors to more than 1,000 Jewish refugees.
“It was at Mariquina Hall, a three-hectare farm owned by President Quezon, which became the first shelter of Jewish refugees who in turn cultivated the land,” Mayor Teodoro said before planting the trees at PSBA.
“At present, the said Mariquina Hall is where the PSBA in Quezon City now stands,” he added.
In 1940s, the housing site for the Jewish refugees was then part of Marikina City.
For his part, Ambassador Harpaz expressed his country’s great gratitude to the Philippines, specifically to Marikina for being a safe haven to Jews during the time that Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, were consistently prosecuting Jews.
He also lauded the late Pres. Quezon for making a very brave decision of allowing Jewish refugees to enter the Philippines.
“It’s very emotional for us Israelis and Jews to be in this place. We choose leaders not to take easy decisions but to take tough decisions. For President Quezon, it was not an easy decision because of the pressure being placed on him. But he decided to take in Jewish refugees despite such,” Harpaz said. “He opened the doors for our people.”
Other democratic countries, the ambassador said, shut their doors to Jewish refugees, but not Philippines, that took a stand and opened its doors.
“What is more important, all the big democracies shut their doors for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. And only here far, far from Europe there was this who took a brave decision,” Harpaz noted.
Mayor Teodoro said that if given another chance, Marikina will once again welcome Jewish refugees with open arms.
“I can say to you now, I am proud we did not turn a blind eye. And I am proud to say that given a chance to do it all over again, we will still choose to open our doors to you,” he told the ambassador.