For Japanese in Israel, Earthquake Prompts Worrying Glance Eastward

Japanese Hebrew University student says his concern is rooted not only in what is happening in Japan but in what could happen in Jerusalem.

Nemoto Suguru, a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been quite worried for several days now. While he is following the news from his homeland very closely, his concern is rooted not only in what is happening in Japan but in what could happen in Jerusalem.

"I have been in Israel for a year and a half, and I noticed that Israelis are very worried about earthquakes. It is not a coincidence: The Bible contains many warnings about an enormous earthquake that is expected to take place in the Land of Israel and cause a major disaster," Suguru told Haaretz on Saturday.

Suguru, a graduate of Tokyo Christian University, came to Israel in late 2009 to complete his master's degree in Jewish thought. Most of his time is spent researching religious texts, including ones warning of an impending earthquake.

One earthquake a year

"Unfortunately, I have the impression that Israel isn't really prepared for earthquakes," he said in fluent Hebrew. "In Japan earthquakes are routine, and since childhood I've experienced at least one a year. It makes life uncomfortable but improves our ability to cope with serious disaster."

Although Suguru's family lives south of Tokyo and was not affected by the quake, he said he was very worried nonetheless when two days passed with no word from home.

"The telephone networks crashed, and there were problems with the electricity supply," he said. "It wasn't until yesterday that I received an email from my mother saying that everyone was okay. She said she can't remember an earthquake like it."

Morina Masayoshi says he hasn't been able to concentrate on his Hebrew studies at the university since Friday morning. "My family and friends weren't hurt, I'm trying to focus but it's impossible. I'm very sad and above all worried about the future. I don't know how Japan will overcome this disaster," he said.

His family lives near Osaka, Japan's third-largest city. "When I heard Osaka was hit by a 5.0 earthquake on the Richter scale it made me happy. Usually I would have been worried about damage to my parents' home, but compared to the north of the country a 5.0 earthquake seems harmless, almost nice."

Masayoshi, Suguru and another Japanese student told Haaretz that their Israeli friends have been very supportive and have offered to help in any way they can.

"We like our Israeli friends and Hebrew University, which is hosting us, and thank everyone for their help and support," Suguru said. "The care I've received in the past few days has shown me how Israel has managed to cope with all the difficulties it has faced throughout its history."