Japanese businessman, Rikoho Madarame, 79, who said, “I have a special place in my heart for the Jews,” funded $2 million of the $3 million to the Madarame Planetarium and Meditation Center in Netanya.
• Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is also in Israel, participating in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment science & education initiative, of which NASA is a partner.
By Nitzi Yakov and Ilan Gattegno
The city of Netanya was set to dedicate a $3 million science and space center on Monday. The 1,000-square-meter (11,000-square-foot) Madarame Planetarium and Meditation Center was largely funded by Japanese businessman and philanthropist Rikoho Madarame, 79, who arrived in Israel on Sunday with his wife and daughter. Madarame is described by city officials as an “Israel lover” who has long felt connected to the Jewish people.
Speaking with Israel Hayom, Madarame spoke about his unlikely bond with the city.
“During the 1970s, I met American-Jewish business people. We connected, and for the first time I learned about the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people,” he said.
“Over the years I made more and more Jewish friends, both inside and outside Japan, and I met Elad Levy, who was an attache at the Israeli Embassy in Japan. When I asked him where I should invest in Israel, he suggested Netanya. Why? Because the attache’s daughter lives there, and because it was a great city. I then got to know the mayor and I came to visit, and I fell in love, just as he said I would. Now I just have to check out the hummus and my visit is complete. Everyone asks me, not only in Japan, why I am engaging in philanthropy in Israel, and my answer never changes: I have a special place in my heart for the Jews and the state. It is a sentiment that I cannot explain, even to myself.”
Asked why he chose to build a planetarium, he noted that the desire to know more about the universe is shared by every human being.
“Anywhere you go, you’ll find people looking at the sky at night. And regardless of their location, they see the same thing. My philosophy is very simple: all humans should be equal, because at the end of the day, we are all very similar,” he said.
Madarame is expected to attend the dedication ceremony along with Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis, Mayor Miriam Feirberg-Ikar and Japanese Ambassador to Israel Koji Tomita. On Tuesday, he will attend a street-naming ceremony in the city honoring Chiune Sempo Sugihara, the World War II Japanese vice consul in Kovno (today Kaunas), Lithaunia, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews by issuing transit visas for them. Sugihara was declared as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for his heroic actions. His son and representatives of the Jews he helped save will also attend the ceremony.
When Madarame became involved in a project honoring Sugihara, he discovered that some of the Jews Sugihara had helped save now live in Netanya.
Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden began his visit to Israel today with a tour of the Givatayim Observatory. Givatayim Mayor Ran Konik and Akunis accompanied him, as well as the director general of the Science, Technology and Space Ministry, Peretz Vazan. Bolden is expected to meet students and innovators to discuss space-related issues. On Tuesday, he will receive an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University.
Ahead of his visit, he asked that the world unite to help bring people to Mars.
“I’m fond of reminding virtually every audience to whom I speak that sending humans to Mars requires all hands on deck — government, industry, academic and international partners and citizen scientists — we need everybody,” he wrote. “Over the course of this trip, I will have the opportunity to discuss NASA’s Journey to Mars [project] with the Israeli minister of science, technology and space, the Israel Space Agency, and Israeli innovators, students and entrepreneurs. I’ll also be meeting with students in both Israel and Jordan who participate in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment science and education initiative, of which NASA is a proud partner.”
Akunis told Israel Hayom that “Bolden’s visit is important and will increase the cooperation between Israel and the United States.”
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