The central Israeli city of Netanya dedicated a $3 million science and space center on Monday. The 11,000-square-foot Madarame Planetarium and Meditation Center was largely funded by Japanese businessman and philanthropist Rikoho Madarame, 79, who is described by city officials as an “Israel lover.”

“During the 1970s, I met American-Jewish business people. We connected, and for the first time I learned about the Holocaust and the suffering of the Jewish people,” Madarame said.

“Over the years I made more and more Jewish friends, both inside and outside Japan, and I met Elad Levy, who was an attache at the Israeli Embassy in Japan,” said Madarame. “When I asked him where I should invest in Israel, he suggested Netanya. Why? Because the attache’s daughter lives there, and because it was a great city. I then got to know the mayor and I came to visit, and I fell in love, just as he said I would. Now I just have to check out the hummus and my visit is complete. Everyone asks me, not only in Japan, why I am engaging in philanthropy in Israel, and my answer never changes: I have a special place in my heart for the Jews and the state. It is a sentiment that I cannot explain, even to myself.”

Asked why he chose to build a planetarium, Madarame noted that the desire to know more about the universe is shared by every human being.

“Anywhere you go, you’ll find people looking at the sky at night,” he said. “And regardless of their location, they see the same thing. My philosophy is very simple: all humans should be equal, because at the end of the day, we are all very similar.”


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