Alibaba CEO Jack Ma lavishly lauded Israel and the Jewish people during a speech at Tel Aviv University on Thursday, May 3.
"Coming to Israel is a dream I've had for many years," he began. Israel's reputation abroad and rumors about the myriad dangers in the country had prepared him for something quite different from what he discovered upon his arrival: "When I arrived, I saw this is so peaceful. A prosperous economy, and innovative technology."
"I should come here more and more," he said. "You should not read about Israel, you should come here, feel it and touch it."
He drew comparisons between Alibaba's success story and Israel's history, saying that "people here are born to believe - 'Never give up.'" This mentality, he said, is what has made Israel a "miracle in only 70 years."
He later commended the Jewish "Hutzpah," and suggested that the toughness of the Jewish people drew them to put so much emphasis on "the brain" and education.
"In my mind, Israel represents wisdom, innovation and persistence. Alibaba's mission is helping small businesses. We believe small is beautiful, and small is powerful. And Israel proves small is powerful, and it is on the way to small is beautiful."
Ma received an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University during his Israel visit. The business magnate also met with important figures in Israel's business and high tech world, as well as with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Last week, he was spotted eating at some of the country’s hottest restaurants, including Jerusalem’s Eucalyptus restaurant located right outside the Old City walls.
Founded in 1999, Alibaba Group reported an annual revenue of $23.8 billion in 2017. The company offers services ranging from e-commerce – similar to Amazon.com – to business-to-business, cloud computing and mobile payment services. The company also owns the South China Morning Post.
Max Schindler contributed to this report.