Israel and Japan Getting Closer

When Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, the latter described Jews and Japanese as “two ancient peoples, proud of our history and our heritage,and at the same time we are two modern, dynamic societies and we eagarly seek to blaze new paths to an advanced and innovative future for all of us and for all mankind.”

An article in The Jerusalem Post says that perhaps it is through this juxtaposition of ancient amd modern that Japan and Israel, two of the most advanced high-tech producers in the world, share an anachronistic idiosyncrasy: the fax machine.

In most places, the fax machine has been consigned to the relic status of mimeograph machines and floppy disks, but both Israel and Japan continue to use that cutting edge 1980s technology well into the 21st century

Yet in the two countries, the reasons for continued use of a device The New York Times described a decade ago as “technology that refuses to die” are starkly different.

Japan still values handwriting. to the extent that greeting cards and resumes are still typically hand-written and calligraphy lessons are popular. The complexity of written Japanese, with thousands of characters and various symbol sets, hindered its adaptation into computers and keyboard typing. The aging population is also less quick to adopt new technologies, and Japan’s is one of the oldest in the world, with a median age of 46.1 (compared with 29.9 in Israel). There is also a cultural preference for having tangible, hard copies of documents.

A video posted online Tuesday showing a masked militant threatening to kill two kneeling Japaneese men has confronted Japan with the same sort of hostage nightmare already faced by the United States and other nations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to try to save the men, while also saying he would not give in to intimidation.

The crisis could also create a different sort of challenge for Abe, who was traveling in the Middle East when the video appeared. Political analysts said the images of the young Japanese men, dressed in the same kind of orange jumpsuites worn by hostages who were beheaded in previous videos, could mean trouble for the prime minister, by turning Japan’s still deeply pacifist public against his pursuit of a more active role for Japan in global security issues.

Islamic state, showed the two Japanese men, identified as Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa, kneeling on a rocky hillside with the knife-wielding masked militant standing between them. The militant appeard to be reading a prepared statement,demanding that Tokyo pay a ransom of $200 million within 72 hours.

The militant linked a ransom demand to an offer that Abe made on Saturday, promising nonmilitary aid to nations aligned against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Abe pledged $200 million to help shore up the government of Iraq and to assist refugees in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon who have fled the Islamic State’s rise.

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“To the Japanese public, just as how your government has made the foolish decision to pay 200 million to fight the Islamic State, you now have 72 hours to pressure your government in making a wise dicision to pay 200 million to save the lives of your citizens”, the masked man said in the video, speaking in English with what sounded like a British accent. “Otherwise this knife will become your nightmare.”