The Israel Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, IsCham, opened the doors of its business and culture center in the heart of the 798 Arts District in China’s capital city last Sunday afternoon. More than 300 guests gathered to meet Israel’s ambassador to China Matan Vilnai, view paintings of the artist Menashe Kadishman, listen to Hebrew music by Chinese duo Ahuva, drink Israel-grown wine and receive a blessing from Rabbi Shimon Freundlin of Chabad Synagogue in Beijing.
IsCham General Manager Meirav Rene Shacked was the host and spoke about her organization’ mission. “IsCham opened a place here not just for business meetings but to show more of our special Jewish culture to the Chinese people” she told CCTV.com in an exclusive interview. “That’s why the Center is located in the city’s Arts District.”
Beijing Rabbi blesses Israel Business Culture Center
Rabbi Freundlin spoke to invited guests outdoors in front of the Center to explain long-cherished customs of the Jewish faithful. He gave a special blessing, called, Shema Ysrael’ and led a Hebrew chant.
He attached a religious item, mezuzah, an inscription of Torah verses enclosed in a tiny glass casing, while informing the audience that the Jewish people believe this instrument provides “special protections from God.” He gave explanations when addressing the Chinese people”.
“I first visited China about 13 years ago and it was my own personal decision to be a rabbi here,” Rabbi Freundlin told CCTV.com. “I want to bring a stronger Jewish presence in the capital of China.”
He noted that when he first arrived, there were only 700 Jewish people residing in the city but that figure has risen to more than 2,000. He greets about 200-300 visitors weekly for religious ceremonies at his synagogue.
Jewish communities grow stronger in China
As China continues to enjoy greater prosperity, the Israeli business community is playing a bigger role to drive the nation’s economy. Israeli companies have earned outstanding reputations in the fields of hi-tech, start-ups, finance, medical and education. Many Israeli firms are seeking Chinese partnerships in joint project deals, while IsCham is leading the way to connect companies from both nations for investment opportunities.
Meanwhile, tourism and business travel between both countries has been booming in recent years. “The Chinese are much more interested in taking trips abroad searching for exotic and unusual destinations. Israel is that kind of place for them,” Mushi Vered, CEO of Vered Hasharan Travel & Tours said. “Also, more Chinese companies are taking business trips to Israel and Israeli technology is grabbing the most attention from them right now.”
Getting close-up views of Israeli masterpieces
The Jewish community is not only famous for its ancient history, religious heritage and business acumen, but they have a passion for the arts. IsCham put on display the artwork of the world-renowned painter Menashe Kadishman. “He’s an artist famous for only painting pictures of sheep,” Isabella Li, IsCham account manager, said.
The painter was initially invited to the grand opening, but he died last May. His son Ben, a fellow painter, flew in from Tel Aviv to pay tribute to his father at the Center.
Moshi Levi, a young contemporary artist living in Beijing, put three of his paintings on display as well. He told CCTV.com on camera, “My paintings are an expression of the diaspora of the Jewish people as depicted in the context of architecture and the spatial sphere.”
Both the Chinese and Jewish civilizations can lay claim to over 5,000 years of history. They hold patriotic fervor when looking back at their rich heritage. Nevertheless, citizens from the two nations remain forward-thinking with their eyes fixed on the future. They have strong convictions in the belief that they must do their parts to make the world a better place. Their shared sense of destiny would likely explain why China and Israel hold such a special bond of friendship.