Budo for Peace

Spreading the Message of Peace Through Japanese Martial Arts:
Mr. Danny Hakim, Founder and Chairman of Israeli NGO, “Budo for Peace

Kinue Tokudome

Original Japanese version was published on WebRonza on Feb. 20, 2019.

Budo for Peace

Karate Dojo in the Bedouin village of Abu Kweder

“Ichi, Nee, San (1, 2, 3),” I hear children’s excited voices from a karate dojo (studio) in a village of Abu Kweder located in the Negev Desert in Israel. In this small Bedouin village, which has no electricity, an Israeli NGO called Budo for Peace (“BFP”) runs a karate program for children. I visited this location with its founder, Mr. Danny Hakim, who holds a 7th degree black belt of Shotokan Karate, to observe a lesson. Teaching children was Hazem Abu Kweder sensei (Japanese word for teacher) who holds a 4th degree black belt. He has been teaching karate for 12 years under the BFP program and now teaches approximately 500 students at 7 dojos.

Until recently, this village did not even have a road connecting it to a main highway. All the children welcomed us with infectious smiles. A 10-year-old Kazuki Kawai, the son of Japanese Embassy’s Cultural Attaché Shion Kazuki who accompanied us, joined the lesson easily, fitting in with the Bedouin children. Mr. Hakim joined as a sensei, and about 40 children, age 6 to 18, participated in the lesson following Japanese shouts, “Rei (bow), Hajime (start), and Yame (stop).” It was obvious that their courteous manners and self-assuredness were a result of the karate lessons. This was Mr. Hakim’s vision.

Children of  Abu Kweder village practicing karate

Mr. Hakim came from a prominent Jewish family that immigrated from Egypt to Australia in the 1950s. Although growing up in a far away place from his ancestral homeland, he was a devoted Zionist. A life-changing moment came when his grandmother gave a gift, a year-long lesson of karate, on his Bar Mitzvah. He excelled in karate and moved to Japan in his 20s to receive more advanced lessons. There he met his life-long sensei (teacher) Master Hirokazu Kanazawa, the founder of Shotokan-do International Federation. Mr. Hakim represented Australia, Japan and Israel in numerous international karate tournaments and became a two-time world karate silver medalist.

In 2000, he immigrated to Israel, the Jewish people’s promised land. He married in 2003 and founded Budo for Peace in 2004. Its stated objectives are as follows:

To educate and instill in youth the behavioral values of tolerance, mutual respect and harmony both within themselves as well as with their neighbors and surroundings by means of traditional martial arts training and by internalizing the inherent ideals of Budo.

The founding and development of a rich international network of cultural ambassadors for peace, guided by the collective principles of Budo. The meritorious contributions and ventures of this network of like-minded people will aid in instituting branches of friendship, collaboration and co-existence in Israel, the Middle East and the world as a whole.

It was important for him that the name of his NGO contained the Japanese word “Budo,” whose meaning he explains as follows:

Budo, comprising of the Japanese words “bu”, meaning warrior, and “do”, meaning path or way, is the Japanese term for the code-of-conduct associated with martial arts for resolving conflict by peaceful means, exercising determination, self-restraint and mutual respect.

While training karate in Japan, Mr. Hakim himself learned these core values of Japanese Budo.

BFP’s logo also carries a powerful and beautiful message. Mr. Hakim personally explained it to me.

                                              Mr. Hakim and author

“The left fist symbolizes a rock, just as the heart is on the left side. Things that are important to you that you keep close to your heart such as your family, your values and religion/beliefs. You have to be strong like a rock.

The right hand symbolizes water. Being strong is not enough. You should also be flexible like water. Flexible in the body and in the mind.

The right hand when open is ready for friendship – a handshake.
To be strong inside (rock) and flexible outside (water).

These symbols are easy for kids to understand.”

The words in the logo, BUDO FOR PEACE, were also written in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

As a Zionist, Mr. Hakim’s mission in life is to have all the children of Israel live in a harmonious society. While being a member of the Australian karate team, whose members were immigrants from many countries, and while learning karate in Japan, Mr. Hakim experienced a sense of comradely through Budo practice with people from many different backgrounds. So there was no doubt in his mind that his goal should be harmony among many different groups within Israel— Secular Jews, Religious Jews, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Arabs, Arab Christians, Druze, Bedouin and etc.

Today, BFP has 18 dojos of its own and 27 affiliate dojos, called KiAi Clubs, where more than 2,000 children participated in Budo practice, mostly karate. Each KiAi Club is paired with another nearby KiAi Club as its “Twin Dojo” for joint training and social activities. For example, there were two villages, one Jewish and the other Arab, less than a 10-minute walk from each other. Until children of these villages took BFP’s karate lessons they did not have any contact. Today, these children and also their parents have become friends. BFP also reaches out to the children of newly arrived immigrants.

Furthermore, Mr. Hakim has been trying to expand BFP’s activities beyond the Israeli border by reaching out to martial artists in neighboring countries. So far, people from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Greece and Palestinian Authority have participated in BFP’s seminars. When BFP held an international seminar in 2016, the then Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita gave a speech praising BFP for teaching young people respect and mutual understanding through the Japanese spirit of Bushido such as self-discipline, courtesy and compassion to others.

Kids Kicking Cancer
Empowering Sick Children

In addition to the karate dojo, Mr. Hakim showed us BFP’s other project, called Kids Kicking Cancer (“KKC”). The program was started by an American Rabbi and martial artist, Elimelech Goldberg, who lost his daughter to leukemia. It teaches breathing, visualization and relaxation techniques, in addition to traditional martial arts to help empower the children and provide them with a sense of power, peace and purpose. Mr. Hakim serves as Chairman of its Israeli chapter.

The place we visited was the pediatric ward of Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest hospital. There, we saw many children receiving chemotherapy for their cancers. Ms. Jill Shames, KKC’s volunteer martial arts therapist, also joined with us. She held out a punching pad in front of each child and let them punch it. The children happily punched the bag. After several punches, Ms. Shames taught them to breathe deeply. KKC’s method tries to help children regain a sense of control over their lives. Martial arts techniques unlock that sense of power and brings them peace. In addition, KKC encourages children to teach others what they have learned, which in turn, brings purpose to their own lives.

I was delighted to see children enjoying KKC’s program. I was also moved by the presence of so many people from different backgrounds, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Sephardic Jews, Mizrahi Jews and Arabs receiving medical care together. Some children were coming from Gaza. As I took a picture of two Palestinian boys, their beautiful mother, Ms. Shames who was Orthodox, and Mr. Hakim, I was keenly aware that this is a side of Israel which is seldom reported in Japan.

Last November, Budo for Peace won the prestigious Regional NGO of the Year Award from Monaco-based PEACE & SPORT International. Under the patronage of Prince Albert II, it promotes dialogue and reconciliation through sports in conflict areas. The news of Budo for Peace receiving this award, a testament to the success of Mr. Hakim’s 14 years of effort, was widely reported in Israel.

Next Goal : 2020 Tokyo Olympics

I had heard about Mr. Hakim’s activities, but it was through the news of his receiving this award that I decided to interview him. And as I learned more stories about him, my interest in him grew. Ms. Noa Koffler, a Japanese woman who has been living in Israel for more than 35 years, kindly offered her apartment as the venue for the interview. Ms. Koffler is the Coordinator for the Olympic Committee of Israel. She remembers Mr. Hakim even before she came to Israel when they both had attended Jewish prayer service at the Jewish Community of Japan in Tokyo.

I also learned from friends that Mr. Hakim was married to the daughter of the late Mr. David Azrieli, an influential developer who built the magnificent Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv. And his wife is now Chairman of the company, Azrieli Group.

When I finally met Mr. Hakim, he shared with me the story of his being offered to join the company by Mr. Azrieli, his future father-in-law, when he was about to marry in 2003.  But he decided to devote himself to Budo for Peace. That he made that decision during the Second Intifada attested to his courage and determination. In those days, Israeli people were targets of frequent terrorist attacks by Palestinians. Buses and restaurants were blown up by suicide bombers and hundreds of Israeli people were being killed.

In 2003, Mr. Hakim participated in the Symposium, “The Direction of Japanese Budo in the 21st century: Past, Present and Future,” organized by the Japanese Academy of Budo. He submitted a paper titled, “Budo’s Potential for Peace – Break Down Barriers in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.” This led to the creation of Budo for Peace. It was launched in a time when even those who supported the Oslo peace process almost gave up hope for the possibility of peace. Yet Mr. Hakim reached out to non-Jewish children without hesitation. He even produced a film about an Arab-Israeli girl, Shadya, who won a Shotokan championship.

Interestingly, the very first donation that BFP received was from the Japanese government.  Mr. Hakim applied for the “grassroots people-to-people fund” and successfully received the start-up capital he needed to get BFP off the ground. Over the years, he received endorsements and encouragements from many groups, including Palestinian ambassador to Japan and Australian Ambassador to Israel. Also, former Israeli Ambassador to Japan Mr. Eli Cohen, who recently received the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government, is one of the board members of BFP.

Mr. Hakim is also one of the Directors of the US based Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) . It is the largest and fastest-growing network of peace-building NGOs in Israel and Palestine. Budo for Peace is its member.  ALLMEP is campaigning for an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, with legislation working its way through US Congress which would allocate $50 million toward such an instrument. Support was already secured from Britain and France. The Fund is due to go live in 2020 and could—if Japan chose to participate—become part of the way in which sport and social programs are leveraged toward peace as part of Japan’s Olympic legacy.

Mr. Hakim’s current goal is to introduce Budo for Peace during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games. He would like to show how the age-old Japanese philosophy of Budo inspires today’s generation of youth from diverse backgrounds to practice coexistence and social harmony. This also resonates with the goals of the Olympics. If young Jewish and Arab children can demonstrate their karate during the Olympics, it would become a great opportunity to show one of Japan’s most successful cultural exports to the world.

Budo for Peace website

Life saved and life that will be saved: Trip to Israel

Kinue Tokudome

(A longer  Japanese version was published in the October 2016 issue of Ushio.)

The phrase that concludes Passover, “Next year in Jerusalem,” has been my wish since twenty years ago. At that time, I was interviewing people for my book on the Holocaust. I met people who devoted their lives to telling the history and lessons of the Holocaust, such as the legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, Chicago Mercantile Exchange Chairman Leo Melamed who was saved by a visa issued by Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, and Congressman Tom Lantos who was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress.


Mr. Simon Wiesenthal                        Congressman Tom Lantos

Some of them became my close friends. For them, Israel, especially Jerusalem, was a very special place. They used to ask me, “When are you going to Jerusalem?” And I would always answer, “Soon, I promise.” Then, I began working on the issues relating to American POWs of the Japanese during WWII and years just went by.

It was my meeting with Mayor Isamu Sato of Kurihara City, Miyagi prefecture, Japan that finally led to my visit to Israel. I came back to my hometown in the same prefecture two years ago and learned that Mayor Sato had helped the Israeli medical team that came to Minamisanriku, a town almost swept away by the tsunami in 2011, to assist victims. I decided to pay him a visit. Mayor Sato shared with me the fascinating stories of his having lived in a kibbutz in his early 20s and having promised that he would work to promote Japan-Israel friendship. Forty some years later, he would deliver on that promise.

Mayor Sato was told that the Israeli medical team would come as a self-contained unit so that the receiving community would not have to provide food or other necessities. Still, with the central government in disarray because of the dire situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was also hit by the tsumani, he knew it would be his responsibility, as the head of a nearby city, to prepare for the arrival of the medical team.

An emergency clinic with prefab buildings would be built in Minamisanriku which had lost most of its infrastructure. Electricity to run the emergency clinic needed to be generated and a supply of clean water needed to be secured. Rooms in a hotel in Kurihara City were set aside as a sleeping quarters for the medical team. Gasoline, the scarcest commodity at that time, had to be procured to run the bus carrying the team every day to the clinic.

On March 28, 2011, the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command and Medical Corps Aid delegation arrived in the area. The team comprised a group of nearly 50 members—doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even interpreters who spoke Japanese. The following day, they opened an advanced medical clinic featuring pediatrics, surgical, maternity and gynecological, and otolaryngology wards, an optometry department, a laboratory, a pharmacy and an intensive care unit.

Mayor Sato’s previous worries that local people might feel uncomfortable being treated by foreign doctors vanished when he saw how smoothly the medical team was treating them. After treating more than 200 patients in two weeks, the IDF medical team finished their mission. During the farewell party, Mayor Sato sang the song he had remembered a long time ago in Israel, “Jerusalem of Gold,” which was soon joined by all the members of the team.

Israeli Ambassador to Japan Ruth Kahanoff and Mayor Sato

The article I wrote about Mayor Sato was published in Jerusalem Post last year, through a kind arrangement by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Later, I had the opportunity to learn about the background of Dr. Ofer Merin, who headed the Israeli medical team. The more I knew about him, the more I wanted to write an article on him. Dr. Merin is the Deputy Director General and Director of Trauma Services at the Shaare Zedek Hospital, as well as a Lt. Colonel in the IDF’s Reserve Forces.

IDF has an independent medical unit that can be dispatched at a moment’s notice to anywhere around the world hit by a major natural disaster. The team headed by Dr. Merin performed medical assistance work in disaster stricken countries like Haiti, the Philippines, and Nepal. At the Shaare Zedek Hospital, he often treats victims of terrorist attacks, even terrorists themselves.

Since last year, there has been a spate of attacks, especially with knives, by Palestinians around Jerusalem. The Israel media prominently reported Dr. Merin’s work as his team tried to treat the victims as they were rushed into the trauma unit.

Finally, Rabbi Cooper, who is a friend of Dr. Merin’s, arranged an interview with Dr. Merin for me last June. I was praying that there would be no major natural disaster around the world or terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. And I was finally able to meet Dr. Merin at the Shaare Zedek Hospital.

Here is my interview with Dr. Merin:

Can you tell us about your father?

My father was a kid in a Jewish village in Poland during WWII. One day, they were put into a train to Auschwitz. Not all Jewish people understood the meaning of it. But his mother understood. So as the train was about to leave she kicked my 8-year-old father and his 6-year-old sister off the train.

A Christian lady found them and decided to hide them in her house. It was a very courageous decision because if anyone found out that she was hiding Jews, she would be killed. She hid them for18 months and they survived the war.

A few years later my father and his sister came to Israel as orphans. Graduated high school and went to medical school. He made a very nice career as an ophthalmologist.

He spent a lot of his time working in the third world countries, helping people. He personally opened a few eye departments in hospitals in Africa when I was 4 or 5 years old. Looking back, it must be more than just he wanted to help people in Africa. People were killed in Europe because they were Jewish. I think his going to Africa and helping people there was his way of telling, “We are all human beings. We are all equal.”

He passed away three years ago. In his last years he had cancer in his blood and was treated in this hospital. He recovered but the cancer came back. One of the doctors told him that there was a research going on for new drug that might cure him. The treatment was available in two countries, Germany and the US.

He had gone to the US many times. So he could have easily chosen to go to the US to receive the treatment. But he said, “Let’s go to Germany.” I think that was a very powerful statement for him to make. The Germans killed his parents, yet he said, “I am able to trust you. You can treat me.” 

I heard that there were times that you treated terrorists.

I have to be very honest. This is one of the most difficult aspects of my work. It is very easy to stand up in a classroom and speak to medical students loudly of medical ethos that every patient is equal. That is easy. But when a terrorist who was shot and the victim he tried to kill are brought in to the trauma unit just a minute apart, you have to make a quick decision. Which one should we bring to the operating room first?  Now you are standing in a position to ask yourself, “Should part of my decision making take into account the issue that he is a terrorist?” No. We treat the patient whose medical need is more urgent.

But we must also be sensitive to feeling of the victims’ family. Imagine a mother who is rushing to the trauma unit where her daughter had been brought in after a terrorist attack. What would she feel when I explain to her that I am treating the person who tried to kill her daughter first. I don’t want to tell you how many times I was stopped in the corridor by family members telling me, “Dr. Merin, are you crazy treating the terrorist first?” It is not easy to explain to the family.

We physicians are not judges. I always tell my people we should be extremely cautious for what I call slippery slope. We all share our same thoughts for murderers or rapists. But that does not mean we should treat them in different ways. Once I start judging these people who I am treating, it will never end.

You grew up in a family with a father who valued life so much, yet you are now treating people who never value life at all, even their own. Isn’t it difficult? 

We don’t agree with a single percentage of whatever he is doing, but in that point of time, he is a human being. I am cautiously using this word, but I am proud that we are able to treat every patient equally.

Do you think your work, as you explained to me, personifies some aspect of your country?

When there is a disaster around the world, I receive hundreds of phone calls from those who want to volunteer. I have to tell them, “Sorry, we are all booked up.” Yes, I think it is due to the value of this country that was born because people told them, “We should exterminate you because you are Jew. We are doing the opposite. We are treating every one as equal. If you ask me if there is a connection between the reasons this state was born and what we are doing, my personal thought is, yes there is.

Rabbi Cooper asked Dr. Merin to share with us one incident in Japan that stayed with him.

For me, one of the powerful moments in Japan was the minute that you understand that you gained the trust of the people. Unlike some other countries we went to help, Japan is one of the biggest countries in the world with an extremely good medical system. So gaining their trust was not so obvious at all. The powerful moment came when people started to speak with us. Not only on their medical issues, but about their feeling and emotion. In this village we were deployed, we knew almost every person we were treating had someone very close to them die, who could be their spouse or kid or a very good neighbor. And after a few days, they started to speak with us about their emotion or about what they were afraid of. That was an important moment for me because that was when I knew we were doing the right job.


After the interview, Dr. Merin brought us to the trauma unit. It was not a large room. Imagining the scene where both a terrorist and a victim are brought in there at the same time, I thought about the difficulty of Dr. Merin’s work. He was true to his belief that every life is precious. I was filled with joy of being able to meet him in person.

The Talmud, teaching of the Judaism, says, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” I realized that this saying was not just an old teaching in the Talmud, but something that had been lived by people like Dr. Merin’s father and Dr. Merin himself.

Each one of us should remember those who displayed courage to save lives and learn from those who honor their legacy by their own deeds.














そうは言っても日本の外務省は結局、自国の領地と領海 ― 韓国と領有権を争う独島/竹島、中国との釣魚島/尖閣島、ロシアとの南クリル/北方領土など ― が侵されてはならないことに関しては、正しく信じている。日本の指導者は、中国とロシアの爆撃機が頻繁に日本の領空に侵入したり、中国の潜水艦が沖縄近海に入ってくることも、当然憂慮している。







オリジナルは Asia Times 7月29日掲載        (日本語訳:徳留絹枝)

Algemeiner  7月30日掲載版には、以下の点も付け加えられました。

― 北朝鮮が1973年の第4次中東戦争時、反イスラエル国側に航空機と人員を提供したこと。シリア・イランなどのイスラエル敵国に、武器、化学・生物兵器、核兵器技術を売ったこと。

― 日本の人々にとって平和・遊び・美のシンボルである凧が 今回はハマスのテロ行為に使われたこと。パレスチナの若者が火炎物を取り付けて飛ばした凧は、イスラエル南部三か所の森林を破壊し、5千エーカーを焼き尽くした。













また国際社会の新しい流れにも、目を向ける必要があるのではないか。トランプ大統領のエルサレム首都宣言、それに対して大きな抗議活動を起こすこともなかった湾岸諸国の動向、サウジアラビアの宗教指導者が初めてホロコースト否定を糾弾する声明を発表したこと、続いて同国のムハンマド皇太子がアラブ指導者として初めて ”ユダヤ人が祖先の地に住む権利” を認めたこと、米国務省の最新報告書がヨルダン川西岸やガザを占領地と表記しなかったことなど、十年一日の「中立」政策でよいのかと思わせられる展開が続いているからだ。


筆者は最近、日本でも邦訳が出た『イスラエル―民族復活の歴史 』の著者で、イスラエルのシャーレム大学副学長ダニエル・ゴーディス氏とメールを交換した。ゴーディス氏は米国とイスラエルの主要新聞に頻繁に執筆しており、発言力も大きい人物だ。公平な立場から簡潔に纏められたこの著書は、指導層への批判が許されないパレスチナと違い、自国政策への批判が世界で最も自由に時には激しく行われるイスラエルで、良書として認められた。そして、米国で最古のユダヤ関連書籍紹介団体から、2016年度最優秀書に選ばれている。








1984年、4歳と3歳の子供を育てながらシカゴの大学に通っていた頃、公共テレビ PBSが放映した「Heritage: Civilization and the Jews」という9時間のドキュメンタリーを観たことがあります。聖書の時代から中世、近代、そしてホロコーストの悲劇を経てイスラエル建国に至るユダヤ人の歴史が、同時に人類全体の文明にどのような影響を与えたのかを、豊富な写真や興味深い資料で織りなした一大絵巻とも言うべき内容でした。シリーズを通して語り部を演じたのは、建国間もないイスラエルの国連大使、駐米大使、後に教育文化大臣、外務大臣を務めたアバ・イバン氏で、ケンブリッジ大学卒の学者であった彼の語り口は、簡潔で分かりやすい英語でありながら、格調の高いものでした。


その後10年ほどしてロサンゼルスに引っ越し、その地のユダヤ人指導者の数人と親しくなりました。その中の一人で、日露戦争時、日本に資金援助をしたジェーコブ・シフなどが設立した歴史あるユダヤ人団体 American Jewish Committee の西部地区代表ニール・サンドバーグ博士と、このドキュメンタリーの話をしたことがあります。そしてサンドバーグ博士が、日本人のユダヤ人理解を助けたいと、このドキュメンタリーをNHKで放映して貰うためにずいぶん努力したが結局実現しなかったことを、知りました。反ユダヤ的本がベストセラーになり、ホロコースト否定の記事さえ出る日本でこそ、このドキュメンタリーが放映されて欲しいと思っていた私も、その話を聞いてがっかりしたことを覚えています。

それからさらに20年以上が過ぎ、 今では「Heritage: Civilization and the Jews」の全編が Youtube で観られるようになりました。
(以下は第1話ですが、第2話以下もYoutube で検索可能です。)

つい最近では、サイモン・ウィーゼンタール・センターがユネスコと共同で制作したパネル展示「「民、聖書、その発祥の地:ユダヤ人と聖地の3500年にわたる繋がり 」が、東京で開かれました。着任したばかりのイスラエル大使ヤッファ・ベンアリ氏や松浦晃一郎 元ユネスコ事務局長、数人の国会議員も挨拶し、日本とイスラエルの間の理解を深めるこのような教育啓蒙活動の大切さを訴えました。

ヤッファ・ベンアリ大使      松浦氏・中山泰秀議員・クーパー師

特筆すべきは、この展示もPBS のドキュメンタリーも、イスラム教の誕生、それがやがて中東全域・北アフリカまで広まり豊かな文化を生み出したこと、その間ユダヤ人が身分は劣位であっても自らの宗教に従って生きることを許されていた歴史を、正確に伝えていることです。