Fiji is a group of beautiful, lush green islands, scattered in the Pacific Ocean. It encompasses 332 islands, which expands over 18,000 sq. km. Today, the population of Fiji is 48% Fijian (natives), 45% Indians (almost all Hindus), and the remainder is comprised of various ethnicities and nationalities. Approximately 60 Jews live in Fiji.
Nearly all Jews in the Fiji Islands live in the capital city of Suva. Henry Mark, at the age of 20, was the first Jew to settle in Fiji in 1881. Mark was originally a native of Australia and instituted an extensive commercial enterprise throughout the region. Marks would later be joined by Jews from India, the Middle East, and other localities in Asia. There are currently three cemeteries in Fiji, located in Momi (private cemetery), Ovalau Island (Levuka), and Suva (old cemetery) with Jewish inscriptions on the tombstones, dating back to the first Jewish settlers in the 1800s.
Until the recent establishment of the Fiji Jewish Association there was little organized activity among the Jewish population. There still remains limited religious life among these Jews; however, the Israeli Embassy does hold an annual Passover Seder, which accommodates 50 to 60 people. Kosher food is imported from Australia.
Israel and Fiji enjoy full diplomatic affairs. In May 2002, the Fiji Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, agreed with the Israeli Ambassador, H. E. Ruth Kahanoff that the two countries should strengthen their relations though they are so far apart geographically. While there is an Israeli Embassy in Fiji, the Israeli Ambassador in Canberra, Australia represents Israeli interests in Fiji.
Israel sent 12 portable solar generators to Fiji in October 2016, in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston.
In February 2020, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin traveled to Fiji to meet Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama for discussions on climate change, sustainable development, smart agriculture, women and youth empowerment.
Bainimarama said, “Fiji and Israel have young, dynamic populations. Our youth know the value of innovative, entrepreneurial thinking and they are the potential of partnerships to generate prosperity. Today, my discussions with President Rivlin centered on empowering these future leaders to strengthen the ties that connect our societies and build a partnership that serves our people for generations.”
Rivlin announced Israel would provide additional assistance in addition to what Israel provides in disaster relief, medical care, and airport security. He also announced the establishment of 100 annual scholarships for students from Fiji to train at a college in Israel.
In June 2023, Fiji announced it would open its first embassy in Israel in 2024. Fiji has “maintained amicable relations with the State of Israel, through bilateral cooperation on peace and security, and areas such as agriculture,” said Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said, “I congratulate the Fijian government on an important decision that will strengthen and deepen the relations between the two countries. Fiji has proven in recent years that it is a true friend of Israel in the international arena as well.”
Fiji Jewish Association:
Embassy of Israel:
Sources: World Jewish Congress.