The cedar forest

By Paulo Coelho

In 1939 the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who was posted in Lithuania during one of the most dreadful periods ever known to mankind, saved thousands of Polish Jews from the Nazi menace by granting them exit visas.

His act of heroism was an obscure footnote in the history of the war until the survivors saved by Sugihara decided to tell their story. His courage and grandeur were soon celebrated by all, drawing the attention of the media and inspiring some authors to write books describing him as “the Japanese Schindler.”

Meanwhile the Israeli government collected the names of the saviors in order to reward them for their efforts. One of the ways in which that the Jewish state tried to show their indebtedness towards these heroes was to plant trees in homage to them. When Sugihara’s courage was disclosed, the Israeli authorities planned to plant the customary cluster of cherry trees – the national tree of Japan – in his memory.

All of a sudden an unheard-of decision was made and the order revoked. They decided that cherry trees were inadequate as a symbol of the bravery displayed by Sugihara and opted for a wood of cedars, a tree of greater vigor and with more sacred connotations for having been used in the First Temple.

Only after the trees were planted did the authorities find out that “Sugihara” in Japanese may be written as … cedar forest.

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  1. THELMA says:

    There is an old doctor, paediatrician in Limassol named Amerikos and I was always thinking what a strange name to give to a small.. baby.

  2. vikram says:

    This story like all other Paulo’s stories reaffirm the presence of a secret element working magics and miracles in our lives.

  3. Agne says:

    These kind of coincidences keep amazing me. There is one more: for a while I was thinking of checking out Paulo Coelho’s blog, but only today I finally did it. It was very interesting to see that today’s entry mentioned Lithuania – my country. Considering that I don’t hear Lithuania mentioned very often, I find it interesting coincidence… Have a great day,
    P.S. I liked your story Savita. Actually, I now a family who wanted to name their son America, but then changed their mind.. I think it’s beautiful name.

  4. David says:

    nice story

  5. Alexandra says:

    Very touching story.I cried when I saw the film “The Schlinders List”.I appreciate each person who helped people in need.Is really a great akt of bravery.

  6. Savita Vega says:

    Someone there was clearly attuned to listening to that little voice within. Synchronicity is such a beautiful thing – the Divine’s way of patting us on the back and letting us know that we are indeed on The Path.

    As usual, I have also my own little personal story that I would like to share, of a similar occurrence: When I was pregnant with my daughter, I tried to talk to her father about potential names for the baby. As he obviously terrified of becoming a father and wanted nothing to do with this child, he refused to even discuss the matter. Then, at the last moment, though still in anger, he made one comment: “All I ask is just be sure you give it an American name!” Her father was Cuban. It was odd, I thought, that he wanted an American name, because he was a Fidel supporter. In my heart, I wanted a Cuban name, a name that would represent her heritage. At any rate, that was the end of the subject, as I didn’t see him again after that.

    Later, when I learned that the baby was a girl, I began to turn over names in my mind. A close friend of mine and his wife had named their first girl Erica, after Leif Ericson, the ancient Norse explorer. I wanted to name my child after an explorer. For me, names are more then words. They have a kind of magical power; the name chosen for a child has an effect on both the child and the course of that child’s life. I wanted her to have, above all, the spirit of adventure, of discovery. I wanted her to be an explorer of life. When I had lived in Florence, I lived almost right across the street from the former home – I think it was the birthplace – of Amerigo Vespucci, the great explorer and cartographer. On the wall of the building, there is a plaque that announces: Amerigo Vesspuci lived here. As I would stand and wait for the bus in the mornings to take me to the center, I would stand and stare at that plaque and imagine the adventures of Vespucci, wondering at the fact that he had once walked this very street I stood upon now. So, Vespucci came to my mind: If it were a boy, I thought, I could name him Amerigo! But that wasn’t an American name – it was Italian. And the child wasn’t a boy; I needed a girl’s name.

    I also wanted a name that would somehow serve to link the two countries of her origin: the United States and Cuba. Then one day – I think I had been reading the diaries of Che Guevara – it just came to me: “I’ll name her America!” After all, what could be more “American” than that – her dad would certainly be happy. Of course I was not at all oblivious to the potential sarcasm inherent in this decision. I thought it fitting. He said give her an American name, so I would; although, for me, the word America did not stand simply for the United States but for the whole of both continents, North and South. The name stood not for the U.S., but for The Americas.

    Up until the moment she was born, I wouldn’t tell anyone the name, as I was afraid they would all try to talk me out of it. She was born at home, in a room full of women – midwives, acupuncturist, etc.- from several different North and South American countries. When my best friend, a Chilean, cut the umbilical cord, I said: Everybody, meet America!

    Only about a week later, I learned that “America” – though it is a name almost completely unheard of in the United States – is actually a very popular Cuban name.


  7. Michael says:

    Good story.

  8. Sefer JAN says:

    Fastly given decision is not always the right choice.

  9. Marie-Christine says:

    I met the author of Schindler’s list in 2006, Thomas Keneally, with my Mum. :D

  10. THELMA says:

    Nothing happens by accident. Names and numbers also have their secret meaning and .. power.

  11. Renata says:

    It was nice to read about Chiune Sugihara and my country this morning… Best wishes from Lithuania!:)