The Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue sits in the small town of Tondano, in the Rerewokan district in North Sulawesi. Despite its modest size, it’s an anomaly in Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, because it’s now the only synagogue in the entire country.

The presence of Jews in Indonesia stretches far back into the archipelago’s history, with some historians placing their arrival to the area as far back as 1492. Others argue that Jews had migrated to the region in waves over centuries, moving about mostly for trade, or to escape harsh repression and persecution, such as the Spanish Inquisition (during which, in 1492, Jews were expelled from Spain). 

Despite this, Indonesia has grappled with anti-Jewish sentiment, complicated by the country’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Israel’s occuption of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Indonesian government consistently condemns attacks carried out by Israel against the Palestinians, and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has expressed support and solidarity for the Palestinians. 

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Finneke Wolajan

Finneke Wolajan was born in 1990 in Tondano, North Sulawesi and started her career as a journalist in 2013 at Tribun Manado, joining the Alliance of Independent Journalists in 2015. She has joined various trainings, earned scholarships for reporting, and won writing competitions on diversity and health, including for a piece on rabies in dog meat from FAO, AJI, USAID and the agriculture ministry. Her hobbies are travelling and photography.