The elegance of Tel Aviv University’s glittering Smolarz Auditorium was the appropriate site when the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Israel celebrated the country’s 70th anniversary. A glittering location for a glittering party hosting the glittering guests. It would be easier to list who wasn’t there from Israel’s diplomatic corps, government officials, Chinese residents and visitors, and Israeli VIP society members, but it’s impossible not to mention Ron Prosor, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Chief of State Protocol in the Israeli Foreign Ministry - Meron Reuben, Gilad Cohen, (deputy director general for Asia and the Pacific in the Foreign Ministry) , Tzachi Braverman the secretary of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister;Nitza Raz-Silbiger, Director of State Protocol, Yona Bartal, representative of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, Asher Ben Artzi, former chief superintendent of the Israeli Police and Superintendent Moti Meiry representative of the Israeli Police.
His Excellency Ambassador Zhan Yongxin and other embassy staffers greeted arriving guests and welcomed them to the lovely reception in the glass auditorium lobby. Guests mingled happily, partaking of the generous buffet dinner and open bar (including beer from China with special labels to mark the occasion), greeting old friends and making new ones. The mix of languages was exciting, with Hebrew speakers almost outnumbered by Chinese and English – and many other tongues. It was a fine mix of cultures, an indication of China’s importance on Israeli the diplomatic scene.
Guests were then invited into the main auditorium for the evening’s entertainment. The Shanghai Chinese Orchestra (SHCO), founded in 1952, was brought to Israel especially for this event, for this one performance.
The Ambassador opened the proceedings with a memorable address, first welcoming the guests, and then with a fascinating outline of China’s amazing economic, diplomatic, technological, scientific and cultural advances over the years. The Chinese statistics are mind-boggling; perhaps the number that amazed your correspondent most was the fact that China is Israel’s second largest trading partner in the world, and that in 2018 alone, trade between the two states amounted to almost $14 billion. Tourism is growing quickly too, with multi-airline direct flights being added between Israel and China at an unprecedented rate. By the end of the first half of 2019, 80,000 tourists from China had already entered Israel.
In conclusion, H.E. congratulated Israel and her people once again, and raised a glass in a toast to prosperity for the host country.
MK Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Minister of Absorption & Immigration, responded on behalf of the State of Israel. After thanking the Ambassador for his kind words, and after congratulating the People’s Republic of China on reaching her 70th anniversary, he noted that with China at 70, and Israel at 71: “ …neither of our nations are young, since they represent civilizations that have existed for thousands of years with rich histories and cultures that contributed much to humanity as a whole in so many ways. While we each sit at opposite ends of the Asian continent - China in the East, Israel in the west - we share between us many values, such as the sanctity of family, education and excellence. These values serve as a basis for the understanding, friendship and trust between our people.”
Mr. Gallant spoke of expanding multi-lateral ties, of expanding trade and of further understanding and dialog between the nations, for the mutual benefit of both countries. “To conclude, on this special day, I would like to warmly wish you, Mr. Ambassador, and the government and the people of the People's Republic of China, peace, security, prosperity and success. May the friendship and the good relations between our two countries continue to flourish”.
A beautiful rendering of the national anthems of China and Israel ended the evening’s formalities. The SHCO performers, in national dress, took to the stage, together with their strange (to western eyes) musical instruments. The music was strange too (again, to western ears) but hauntingly beautiful. We were treated to pieces with dramatic names that included, amongst others, “The Silk Road”, “Dancing Bees”, “Butterfly Lovers” and the erotic “Farewell to My Concubine”. The words of the SHCO Director, in the program, summed it up beautifully: “Let the audience … have understanding and love of Chinese folk music … build a solid bridge of cultural communication between China and Israel”. How true.
To end the evening guests were invited back to the lobby for deserts and liqueurs, a delightful culmination to a very special diplomatic event.
The Director and staff of www.diplomacy.co.il share their good wishes to the Ambassador and to the People’s Republic of China on this auspicious occasion.
Photos By Silvia G. Golan
© Copyright, Jonathan Danilowitz 2019.