Is this your first time in China? What are your impressions of Guangzhou?
For me, it is the first time I have worked in China, though I have traveled to China several times. Guangzhou is everything that I expected it to be and more. I think that Guangzhou is like a diamond that has been waiting to be polished and is finally there. This is because many people perceive Guangzhou to be an industrial city. People often visit twice a year for business at the Canton Fair. Now, however, Guangzhou is more than that. It has so many things to offer.
Israel very recently celebrated the Jewish New Year. What are the traditional customs of celebrating the New Year?
First of all, Israel celebrates 3 New Years due to the fact that we have 3 major religions. Apart from the majority of Jews, there are also big minorities of Christians and Muslins.
Around 75% of the population celebrate the Jewish New Year. In fact, we celebrate it just like other traditional Jewish holidays – we eat a lot! *laughs*. For us, it reinforces our connection to the Bible and to the land. We will practice prayer, gather as a family, and reconnect with a spiritual place. Not everybody is religious in Israel, but everybody has a spiritual side because Jewish religion is much more than a religion. It relates to what you eat and how you live. This time of the year is thus about renovation and reconnecting to the spiritual place in our lives.
Both Israel and China have long histories. We both attach great importance to the traditions inherited from our ancestors. What do you consider to be similar traditional values between China and Israel?
Indeed, we are two cultures that have a long and continuous history. These two civilizations have existed for over 3000 years, and yet they only met each other a few centuries ago. Nevertheless, we share similar family values of education. For example, both cultures place value on sending children to schools and navigating one’s life with diligence.
除此之外，中国和以色列还有很多相似之处。中华人民共和国刚刚庆祝了70岁生日，而以色列则庆祝了71岁生日。这两个国家都几乎在同一时期重新出发。我们都曾在开国初期度过了艰苦卓绝的时段，中国在20世纪50、60年代和以色列一样曾遭受着经济困难。如今的中以两国都迎来了高科技蓬勃发展的社会。Aside from that, there are many other similarities. The People’s Republic of China just celebrated its 70th birthday, while Israel celebrated 71 years. Both of the countries restarted and rebooted during the same period. We pushed through the hardship of the first few years, while China in the 1950s and 60s was suffering economic hardship as well. Now, we have grown to become innovative and high-tech societies.
If I want to visit Israel for three days to experience the local culture and delicious cuisine, what route would you recommend for an authentic tour?
Israel is a country about both the past and future. On the one hand, we have a 2000-year history, and on the other hand, we are at the forefront of up and coming technologies.
I suggest that we start from the past – Jerusalem. Here, you have three religions concentrated within a one kilometer radius. You can have a religious and spiritual day, experiencing a traditional environment and tasting delicious Middle East food.
Next, we head an hour south to the desert. More than half of the land in Israel is desert. Here, you can enjoy the scenery that is totally different from what you would find in southern China. The temperatures are drastically different during the day and at night. For this reason, we stay in tents for the second night. It is a unique experience to drink wine produced in the desert and vegetarian food collected there. It is something quite different from visiting a conventional Michelin 3-star restaurant.
Next, we head two hours north and arrive at Tel Aviv-Yafo, the city that never sleeps. It is also the gay capital city of the Middle East. Here you will find lots of parties on the beach. You can also taste food from the best restaurants in Tel Aviv-Yafo, restaurants that combines the flavor of European food with the traditional Arab cuisine. While joining the parties on the beach, you can enjoy a sip of wine that is completely different from the wine in the southern desert.
Many people still have stereotypes about Israel, such as war, the dead sea, etc. Could you describe what Israel is like today?
First of all, I think Israel is a country of contrasts – past, and future. Don’t judge Israel only based on what you have read in the media, because they often ignore the beauty and all aspects of Israel. On one hand, being the only Jewish country in the world, Israel is a country based on traditions and religions. On the other hand, it is a country that respects all citizens whether they be Jewish, Muslim, or Christian.
Although we are surrounded by instability, achieving peace is one of our most important tasks. We want to achieve prosperity not only for ourselves but also for our neighbors.
What kind of effort will the Israeli Consulate make to promote cultural exchanges and deepen the mutual understanding between China and Israel?
In the last few years, there have been many intercultural activities between China and Israel. We invite well-known artists from different festivals and museums to witness the cultural variety and dynamics in Israel and then bring them back to China.
What’s more, we also try to involve Israeli artists in some of Guangzhou’s cultural events, such as dance festivals and children film festivals. We are more interested in integrating Israel culture with pre-existing Chinese events. Our strategy is not to impose on people and force them to learn Israeli culture, but rather to involve them. We are a bridge connecting these two countries by bringing these talented artists to China.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel, there have been frequent interactions and cooperation, especially in the field of high-tech industries. In the Greater Bay Area (GBA), what role does the consulate play in the cooperation between the two countries?
This area is a big hub of innovation, and since the early stages, there were a lot of Israeli innovation centers and parks. The combination of our technical knowledge with the Chinese system has been a big challenge for us. I think the secret of successful innovation in Israel is that we don’t always follow the rules and we have no fear of failure. Even though we have hundreds of startup companies that are successful, for one to be successful, five companies can fail.
Like China, Israel has a lot of young people with strong will to make a change and do something different. We encourage the new generation to push forward when it comes to development. Subsequently, we have the GTIIT(Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology) in Shantou, a university founded by one of Israel’s technological leaders. It provides the academic foundation for innovation, contributing to the formulation of the innovation ecosystem. This is due to the fact that innovation is not just a smart idea, but a thorough system of financing, managing, and investment. You need to create a model and nurture the right environment for continuous innovation.
We are excited about GBA Initiative and Israeli companies are very active in delta area.
For example ,a couple of weeks ago, for example, a Nobel prize summit for technology and science was held in Shenzhen. One of Israel’s Nobel prize winners participated and we exchanged our experiences. During the first weekend of November, there is an innovation festival happening in Guangzhou. We are co-hosting it and some Israel businessmen are also involved. We are active in the seminars, activities, and B2B meetings in Guangdong area as part of our efforts to seek cooperation in new places.