china jews .
(photo credit: Paul Rockower)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not the only Israeli currently visiting China. According to local travel experts, the country has become a popular destination for Israelis searching for something a little different.
"Going to China has surpassed Australia and New Zealand as the new exciting and exotic place to travel for Israelis," according to Roded Peri of Travex travel agency in Jerusalem.
"It's not the No.1 place for Israelis, especially compared to Europe and America," said Peri, "although the numbers have definitely increased dramatically over the last few years, particularly this year."
According to Yoni Azoulay, an employee of the Best Gal Iron Company in Tel Aviv, some of those traveling Israelis are mixing business with pleasure.
Because of the business dynamic in the inland, the economic boom on the east coast and the developing commercial towns, such as Guanzhou, many Israelis are flocking to get cheap merchandise and labor, as well as investing in places like Macao and Shanghai. Currently, there are about 40 Israeli companies there, including Shalit, an Israeli textile company in China.
"Everything is cheap," continued Azoulay. "In Israel, there is so much competition in the marketplace."
He added that the country's work ethic truly amazed him. "They don't have the newest technology available to them, and are definitely not working under the best conditions, but you can't argue with the finished product. It's really amazing."
Azoulay also noted that contrary to what he expected from the Asian country, the majority of the businesses - small and big - were being run by the women.
Ben Ya'acobi, another Israeli who has recently returned home after a trip to China combining business and leisure, also reflected on some of the ways China surprised him.
"I don't know how else to say it" Ya'acobi said. "Shanghai is Manhattan. It's like being on Wall Street or something. People are flying by you in suits, briefcase in one hand and a cell phone on the other getting last minute updates before heading into work. I think the only difference between Manhattan and Shanghai is that in Shanghai, one of the lanes on the street is reserved for bicycles."
Yet for all that is foreign about the ancient culture, Israelis are also finding some aspects of Chinese life unpredictably familiar.
"I was in Beijing and Shanghai" said Ya'acobi. "The people reminded me of the Israeli character you know. They don't talk much. They're not very outgoing, and I think I finally saw a place where drivers honk more then in Israel" he joked.
"Beijing for example, really reminded me of Israel, almost like Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Right in the center of the city was a shuk. People in jeans and T-shirts, selling fish, fruits and nuts, haggling and yelling. Who knew I could find comfort in that?!"