Friday, March 20, 2009



Asylum Granted to the Vietnamese Boat People - June 26, 1977

By: 12th House

While many will challenge that Zionism is exclusive to only the needs and interests of the Jews, it is important that we recognize Israel’s contributions to other peoples in need. As a once persecuted and victimized people of a time not too long ago, we understand and remember with vigilance.

Background: Vietnamese Boat People offered Asylum

During the 1960's and 1970's, conflict and hardship was not exclusive to just the Middle East. The nation states of Asia were also fighting to rid themselves of colonialist rule and in some cases battling themselves in search of a national direction.

The people of Vietnam were no exception. For much of the 1960's and 1970's, they were a people that knew nothing other than conflict, pain and hardship. During the mid 1970's, many Vietnamese citizens, frustrated and fatigued from years of conflict, chose to seek a better life elsewhere. Setting sail on ships of poor integrity, these people sailed from nation to nation seeking asylum. Over time, they would come to be known as the (Vietnamese) “boat people”.

During 1977, one particular group of refugees after being denied entry by many other nations would ultimately find their sanctuary on June 26, 1997 in the State of Israel. For 66 Vietnamese refugees, the Jewish State became their new home. Today, a strong Vietnamese community thrives in Israel.

As a Jewish people, we remember the USS St. Louis and the fate that its passengers met in Nazi Europe because no nation would offer her asylum. We remember the refugee ship Exodus and her crew of Holocaust survivors denied entry during the British Mandate period when immigration was shut off to Palestine.

The lessons of our people run deep and long. Whenever and wherever possible, we have reached out to help those in times of crisis and need. The 1977 Vietnamese example is just one of many. More recently, Israel has provided refuge to the Kurds and citizens of war torn Albania and Bosnia.

It is important to make the distinction that these are not Jews, but people of other faiths. When we look to these examples of humanity, we realize that Zionism is an experiment that has learned from its past and has done its small part to assure that history for our people or people of other faiths and nations is not repeated.

Event Ideas:

1) Thank You Campaign – People tend to forget more than they remember. So help them to remember. A simple “Thank You” flyer campaign reminding people what Israel did for these people will get the point across. Work with your campus Asian groups to co-sponsor the effort.

2) Did You Know Campaign – Another broader campaign to build on the Thank You campaign is to educate people to all the humanitarian efforts that Israel has been involved with. Plan this as multi-week campaign with flyers and editorials. Focus on all the non-Jewish communities that Israel has provided assistance for. One of the key thrusts of this campaign is to help people understand that “This is Israel” or “This is Zionism” - not what you see on CNN!

3) Have A Kosher-Vietnamese Dinner – as a way to celebrate the Israeli Vietnamese community, why not have an authentic Kosher Vietnamese Dinner. Do this project in conjunction with your campus Vietnamese (or Asian) student group. After dinner, take some time to get to know each other and explore other opportunities for collaboration.


Information Department, Israel Embassy and Consulates, World Zionist Organization, Jewish Agency

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