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Netanyahu 'closes the circle' in Shanghai

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-08 07:38

Netanyahu 'closes the circle' in Shanghai

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center left) and his wife Sara attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum on Tuesday. Provided to China Daily

Coffee shop reopened on first China visit by an Israeli PM since 2007

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut the ribbon for a coffee shop on Tuesday.

It was not for a commercial, but to commemorate the friendship between two peoples that dates back about 70 years.

"I must say I never cut the ribbon for a coffee shop in my life," Netanyahu said while attending the opening ceremony of Cafe Atlantic at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum on Tuesday morning.

"And this is a very pleasant first time," said the prime minister, who arrived in the eastern Chinese metropolis on Monday to start his five-day visit to China. It is also the first official visit of an Israeli prime minister to China since 2007.

Cafe Atlantic has no more than a counter and a few tables in a corner of the museum, but it has a history that dates back more than 70 years.

"During World War II, more than 20,000 Jewish refugees took shelter in Shanghai against Nazi persecution and massacre," said Du Jiong, deputy head of Hongkou district.

"Together with the local people of Shanghai, they defended themselves against Fascists and survived the war."

Du said most of the Jewish refugees lived in Shanghai's Hongkou district and left their historic mark and heritage in the area.

In recent urban reconstruction, Hongkou district has discovered some antique business signs still legible after 70 years. "Tenor - for Sausages", "Horn's Snack Bar" and "Cafe Atlantic" were all opened by Jewish refugees in an area of Hongkou known as "Little Vienna" during World War II.

The museum restored the signs and reopened Cafe Atlantic in its yard. The visit of the Israeli prime minister marked the official reopening of the historic coffee shop.

"We hope to revive memories of that era and preserve the history," said Chen Jian, curator of the museum, which opened in 2007.

Netanyahu said in the museum: "This is the closing of a circle for us. We were here 15 years ago and had a very moving visit that commemorated the great kindness of the people in Shanghai."

Shanghai was an exception when the world closed doors to Jews, he said.

"Now the fate of the Jews has changed a great deal," he said. "Seventy years ago, we could only plead. We could only beg to be saved. Today, we have a state of our own and an army of our own. We need not beg to be saved. We can defend ourselves."

Before visiting the museum on Tuesday, Netanyahu visited Caohejing high-tech park in suburban Shanghai. On Monday, he met some Israeli entrepreneurs.

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