Maoris apologise to Israel

August 1, 2018 by Sheree Trotter
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History was made on 29 July 2018 when the indigenous people of New Zealand organised a special ceremony to honour and welcome the Israeli ambassador, His Excellency Dr. Itzhak Gerberg.

Sheree Trotter

Led by Ngapuhi kaumatua (elder) Pat Ruka, and joined by many Māori from around the nation, a Powhiri (welcome ceremony) was held at Hoani Waititi Marae (meeting house) in West Auckland. The ceremony of apology, called a whakapāha, was held to express regret for New Zealand’s actions in standing against Israel at the UN and to seek forgiveness. 

In December 2016 New Zealand co-sponsored the anti-Israel UNSC Resolution 2334, along with Senegal, Malaysia and Venezuela. Many New Zealanders felt betrayed by their government’s actions and responded with letters, petitions and marches. The Israeli Ambassador was recalled for six months, and while the relationship has since been restored, the New Zealand government has never expressed regret for its stance. 

However, not all Māori are supportive of Israel. Greens co-Leader Marama Davidson, also Ngapuhi, has stood firmly against Israel, joining the protest flotilla to Gaza in 2016 and currently calling on the government to condemn Israel’s blockade on Gaza. Sadly, Davidson’s Green Party’s environmental concerns do not extend to the significant environmental damage caused by Hamas in recent months. Indeed, Davidson refuses to consider both sides of the conflict and ignores the fact that Jews have held mana whenua* over the land through their continuous presence for 3,000 years, in spite of many occupiers over that period. She seems unaware of the multicultural nature of Israeli society and the fact that, to put it simply, there are more brown Jews than white in Israel.  

Ambassador Gerberg with Maori friends

Since Davidson’s 2016 Gaza flotilla stunt, increasing numbers of Māori have become more vocal and active in their support for Israel.  With the Israeli Ambassador returning to New Zealand in 2017, Pat Ruka led an initiative to formally extend a welcome, offer an apology for New Zealand’s actions at the UN and affirm Māori friendship toward Israel. Ruka carries the stories of his tupuna (ancestors) who, because of their Christian beliefs, maintained a deep respect for the people of Israel. He remembers that his forbears travelled to the capital city, Wellington, to offer the government iwi (tribal) land for Jewish refugees following World War II. His tupuna were told to “go back to their hovels”. 

The ambassador gets a Maori greeting

The Aotearoa-Israel Powhiri was the culmination of many hopes and dreams for Ruka, his tupuna and for other like-minded Māori. 

The afternoon event included the traditional elements of a Powhiri: the Wero (challenge to determine whether visitors come in peace or hostility), the Karanga (call onto the Marae), Mihi (speeches), Waiata (song) and performances by Hoani Waititi Kura Kapa Haka group and Pacific Pearls. Representatives of Auckland’s Jewish community participated in the ceremony by singing Hebrew songs in support of their speakers, His Excellency Dr Itzhak Gerberg and David Robinson, Honorary Consul for Israel.  There was also an exchange of gifts whereby the Ambassador received a Korowai (traditional cloak) and a menorah was gifted to Pat Ruka. To conclude, the parties sat down to share a meal together.

National MP Hon Alfred Ngaro, New Zealand’s first Cook Island MP, spoke on the paepae (orators’ bench) recalling his family connection to the Jewish people through his grandmother.  Throughout the proceedings, many similarities between Māori and Jewish cultures were noted, such as the emphasis on whakapapa (genealogy), language and land. The event marked a significant milestone in the relationship between Māori and the Jewish community, and the connection of Māori to Israel.

*power associated with possession and occupation of tribal land

Sheree Trotter is a Māori New Zealander and Ph.D candidate (History) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She is a researcher, writer and co-founder of Shadows of Shoah, a unique multi-disclipinary Holocaust exhibition.


9 Responses to “Maoris apologise to Israel”
  1. Craig Dawson says:

    As a New Zealand born Maori from Ngapuhi and who now resides in America with a Jewish wife and two Maori Jewish children and who just coached a boys soccer team at the recent Maccabi Games here in the OC. I am glad that someone is at least fighting back against a NZ Govt that co-sponsored such a ridiculous resolution. Maori have been fighting their own govt for decades just to get an equal standing in NZ. Jews have been fighting much of the world just to exist for the last 3000 years.

    • Shana Meyerson says:

      You are an inspiration and leader for two amazing cultures and communities. Thank you, Craig!

  2. charles kaplan says:


  3. Abraham Mendel Bradman says:

    In my 55years in the Motor Trade, I met clients from all walks of life, religions, ethnic races, rich and poor and if I thought they may not like to deal with a Jewish person, I would advise them accordingly. I only ever had one who answered in the negative, he was a Saudi Prince and he politely and apologetically asked me if he could deal with another member of the sales team. After the transaction was complete he sent me a letter of apology and a present of Theatre Vouchers!. The only other people who would sometimes make anti-Semitic remarks were aristocrats or unbelievers and I would always explain to them the error of their ways.
    All the Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and many other religous sects I met in the UK expressed their thanks. Most of the Christians used to say they had never met a Jew before and seemed pleased to deal with me.
    Now many thanks to the Maoris, may your race be Blessed

  4. shloime baruch says:

    “to put it simply, there are more brown Jews than white in Israel.”

    i don’t think there are any “white jews” or “brown jews” in israel. under jewish law, there are only “jews”. there are different groups, whose customs have evolved separately in different parts of the world, but they are all equally jewish, whether their community is from ethiopia or russia. dna evidence shows that the jewish people arose from a place called “judea”.

    white racists don’t accept “jews” as white, and black racists don’t accept “jews” as non-white. and arab racists deny that “jews” are semites. but the whole usa of “race” is scientifically discredited, so let’s stop giving it credence.

  5. Tsahallah says:

    That’s really nice of you, thank you for that but really no need to apologize, for me anyway. You did not do anything. You can’t control every decision of the government.

  6. Ethel McLenachan says:

    My heart is full. What an amazing gesture.

    • Nades cT says:

      Im Maori and of Jewish descent. The article is incorrect. These people do NOT represent Maori as a people. Nga Puhi are an odd tribe. You will find most Maori support Davidson.

  7. Avinoam Ben Dor says:

    We the people of Israel welcome the Maori people to come and visit the Holy Land as brothers and sisters.

    Thank you for your support and help God bless you.

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