China’s Ambassador to Israel says he hearts the Holy Land.
China’s Ambassador to Israel Zhao Jun encounters the same question time and again. During visits to his homeland he is asked what it’s like to serve in a country known as a world power with 200,000 residents.
“I explain to them that Israel only has seven million residents – barely a small town in China,” he says. “They find it hard to believe. I understand them. News doesn’t change all the time in China like it does here – every hour. It took me time to get used to it as well.”
After three years in Israel, Zhao is in love. He recently asked his supervisor at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing for another extension, although his term is scheduled to end soon. He wants to stay here at least one more year.
He spent Yom Kippur at the Kfat Shmaryahu synagogue near his residence. No, he didn’t fast, but felt the need to express his solidarity.
“I am China’s ambassador in Israel. I love Israel,” he says in Hebrew, adding that he would galdly study Hebrew but can’t find the time.
Didn’t you have any prejudice against Israel?
“When the supervisor informed me that there was an available position for an ambassador to Israel, I immediately said yes. He said, ‘Think about it for one night; consult your family.’ I told him there was no need. I am interested in the position. Like others, I thought it was a country constantly in a state of war.
“When I arrived here I discovered a wonderful country. What captured my heart was the residents’ friendly attitude. The friendship between Israel and the Chinese people has been going on for over 1,000 years, including during the Holocaust when Jewish refugees were given shelter in China although China was in dire straits, under a Japanese attack.”
On Tuesday, September 28, China marks 18 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. The Chinese, like the Israelis, view this number as a symbolic milestone. “For us it symbolizes happiness and prosperity,” the ambassador explains.
A festive gala dinner was to be held at the Beit Shean amphitheater in the presence of President Shimon Peres. This location was chosen, among other things, in honor of former politician David Levy, who lives in Beit Shean and served as foreign minister when the relations with China were first established.
Zhao says he is working with the Israeli Foreign Ministry on preparing Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to China, where he says the prime minister is expected to be welcomed warmly.
“You might not know this,” he says, “but we in China admire you and your Jewish mind, which has brought many Nobel prizes. The free China was established in 1949, one year after Israel, but we view what you have achieved as a miracle. We are brothers, almost twins.”
Did he say twins?
Suppression of human rights, opposition to Iranian sanctions…there is only one way I can see us and China as twins.
And yeah, I am not impressed with the ambassador’s professed love for Israel. As Confucius say: Actions speak louder than words.*
* Ok, he might not have said that exactly. But he believed it, as evidenced by his saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
About the AuthorAn Australian immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave has been blogging since early 2003.
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