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Sep 17, 2012 - Hiroshima in Israel: Hibakusha give testimony during historic visit
The delegation at the Western Wall in Jerusalem with their "wish" for nuclear abolition
Historic Visit

Four Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) from Hiroshima travelled to Israel to give testimony for a week on the catastrophic human consequences of nuclear weapons. The four Hibakusha were designated by the Japanese Government as "Special Communicators for a Nuclear-Free World," and visited Israel as part of a project organised in cooperation with the Israeli Disarmament Movement (RPM) and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Since 2008, Peace Boat has been carrying out the Global Voyage for a Nuclear-Free World - Peace Boat Hibakusha Project ,bringing more than one hundred and thirty Hibakusha to give testimony in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Oceania, the Middle East and at the United Nations. This historic visit was the first time for Hibakusha to give testimony to the Israeli public, and the first time that Israeli citizens had the opportunity to hear their personal stories and first-hand accounts.

Mr.Miyake and Mr.Nagayama place their wishes for nuclear abolition in the Western Wall
Public Events

The Hibakusha delegation began with a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, is one of the holiest sites within Judaism. The four Hibakusha were greeted by the chief Rabbi who shook their hands and expressed his condolences for the tragedy of Hiroshima. According to Jewish tradition, prayers are written on small pieces of paper and pushed into the cracks of the wall. The delegation wrote the characters for 'nuclear abolition' in kanji (Chinese characters) on three pieces of paper which they showed to the media who had gathered to witness the event before folding them as tightly as they could and pushing them into the wall to pray for a nuclear free world. They also added a folded paper crane (orizuru) which is a symbol of peace and disarmament in Japan.

Miyake Nobuo describes how he saw a large group of people walking towards him, out of the flames of the burning city, their bodies so badly burned that it was impossible to tell who were men and who were women, young or old
Personal Stories

The Hibakusha delegation gave testimony at three public events in three different cities. The first event in Jerusalem was moderated by Muhamad Aweida of Combatants for Peace and was attended by Meir Margalit of the Jerusalem Municipality (Meretz) who had given the group a tour of the city earlier that evening. The event in Tel Aviv, held at the Zionist of America House was moderated by Linoy Bar-Gefen, a well-known commentator and journalist in Israel. The audience listened intently as Miyake Nobuo, who was sixteen in 1945, described Hiroshima as a city devastated, how he watched a group of ghost-like figures emerge from the flames, their bodies so burned that the skin hung from their hands and it was impossible to distinguish men from women, or young from old.

Audience members at the Open Event in Jerusalem study posters showing the effects of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Tsuchida Kazumi, who was almost five at the time, could remember the figure of her father who was so badly affected by the radiation that he died after a month of suffering. When she turned 13, Ms. Tsuchida's best friend died of leukemia caused by radiation from the atomic bomb and she began to worry about her own health. The long-term effects from radiation is one of reasons why nuclear weapons are unlike conventional weapons. Sugino Nobuko whose elder brother perished without a trace and whose elder sister died three weeks later from her injuries, escaped with her mother. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was forty-two years old. Nagayama Iwao was diagnosed with a 12cm cancer in his liver that doctors believed had developed over sixty years.

The Hibakusha delegation met Holocaust survivors Ya'akov Gutterman, Gizelle Sekowitz, Estelle Golan and Panina and Ya'akov Katzir to share personal stories and testimonies.
Sharing Stories: Meeting with Holocaust Survivors

As well as sharing their stories, the group also had the opportunity to hear testimony from survivors of the Holocaust when they visited Yad Va-Shem (Israel's Holocaust Museum). Sugino Nobuko said that while she had read about the Holocaust in books and seen documentaries, listening to the personal stories of those who had survived the death camps was unlike anything she had imagined.

Auschwitz survivor, Gizelle Sekowitz and Tsuchida Kazumi embrace
Tsuchida Kazumi listened intently as Pnina Katzir told them about the first time she shared her personal story with the researchers at the Yad Va'sham. Until that point she had kept it all inside for fifty years, unable to say a word about her suffering to those around her. Ms. Tsuchida immediately felt a common bond with Ms. Katzir as she thought of how so many Hibakusha had also had to lived in silence for decades. Survivor, Ya'akov Gutterman said how moved he had been by the meeting with the Hiroshima survivors and that it had been one of the most significant events of his life and that he supported their work for a nuclear free world. Miyake Nobuo said the survivors of both these tragedies had a responsibility while they were still alive to pass on their stories to the next generation to ensure that mankind never has to suffer such inhumanity again.

Kawasaki Akira.

The delegation's visit came at a particularly sensitive time when there were concerns amongst Israeli society about Iran's nuclear capabilities. Much of the Israeli media continues to report on the possibility of nuclear weapons development in Iran. While many major newspapers sent reporters and photographers to cover the delegation, few editors were brave enough to publish reports that called for global nuclear abolition as this would include the Israeli arsenal. Even the Chief Rabbi repeated the dominant discourse of the danger of nuclear weapons in the "wrong hands". It was not surprising that questions from the audience would turn to the question of Iran. Peace Boat Executive Committee Member and Vice-chair of ICAN, Kawasaki Akira told the audience of his recent work on disarmament in Iran. He explained that there are active civil society groups in Iran, who particularly feel a common point with the Hibakusha as victims of Weapons of Mass Destruction, because of the chemical weapons used during the Iraq-Iran war. He told that it is important to collaborate with those civil society groups in encouraging the government to work towards freeing the Middle East of all Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Sharon Dolev of the Israeli Disarmament Movement explained the wider global situation of nuclear weapons and the efforts to establish a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and All Other Weapons of Mass Destruction (MENWMDFZ). Nuclear Weapons Free Zones already exist in a number of regions throughout the world, and establishing one in the Middle East would contribute to building stability in the region.

The delegation from Hiroshima are calling for a world free of nuclear weapons
The Hibakusha delegation's message was clear and simple; countries which do not possess nuclear weapons should not attempt to acquire them while countries which do currently possess them should get rid of them. Even the existence of one nuclear weapon in the world was too many. It was this message that the delegation repeatedly emphasised throughout their visit as they hoped that telling their stories in Israel would motivate the Israeli audience to work with them and others for a world free of nuclear weapons.

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