A charming location, many elegant guests and a wonderful reason to celebrate: these were the essential components of the very successful event last night at Tel Aviv's Dan Hotel, hosted by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China to the State of Israel, on the occasion of the arrival and assumption of office of a new Ambassador to Israel, His Excellency Ambassador Zhan Yongxin. Adding to the joy of the occasion was the fact that China is ushering in the New Year of the Goat, and also celebrating the spring festival.

 

In his opening remarks, the Ambassador welcomed the assembled guests, also mentioning one uninvited "guest" in particular – the storm raging outside. He thanked everyone for coming, especially in the light of the very inclement (and unusual) weather. The cold outside was matched by the warmth of the reception inside.

 

 

His Excellency spoke of his arrival only two weeks earlier, but that he had already been deeply impressed by "this magical [and beautiful] country ... the wonderful [and passionate] people ... the vigorous economy. ... People say this is the Promised Land, but I say: Israel is a Promising Land. ... This is destined to be the most promising and successful land in my diplomatic career."

 

The Ambassador spoke of the Chinese economic miracle, quoting impressive statistics, past and present, with forecasts for the future. He mentioned his vision for improving the already fine bi-lateral relationship that China and Israel enjoy, and also the mutuality of the two peoples with their long and fascinating histories; and specifically China's role in offering refuge to so many Jews during WW2.

 

Ambassador Zhan Yongxin has had a dazzling diplomatic career, where his last position was as Director-General, Department of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Affairs, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He pointed out that he is China's 7th Ambassador to the State of Israel (in 23 years of excellent diplomatic relations between the two countries), and that the number 7 bodes success for all concerned "to embrace a better and brighter future". He concluded by thanking everyone for coming "to contribute to promoting friendship" and wishing everyone health and success in the Chinese New Year.

 

 

Israel's Minister of Energy, Infrastructure & Water, Mr. Silvan Shalom, responded on behalf of the State of Israel. In a moving speech, the Minister welcomed the new ambassador and his wife, and wished them every happiness in Israel.

 

"China", he said, is: "... an ancient civilization forging a bright future in the modern world. A society facing immense challenges, yet bringing constant progress to its citizens and to the world. The same is true of Israel. The two countries are vastly different in size, geography, populations, cultures, languages and more. ... Israel has a long history as a people, a short history as a state. We started as a doubt; we wound up as a miracle." Mr. Shalom spoke of Israel as "the start-up nation", mentioning that Israel, after Canada, is the 2nd most important foreign presence on NASDAQ; of her economic success, her efforts (as in China) to promote education, infrastructure, water resources and more. He also made reference to the dark years of European Jewish refugees who found a welcome in China, even as China was itself struggling with the threats of Nazi ideology during WW2. "Israel was one of the first countries to recognize the People's Republic of China and the people of Israel have always seen China as their friend. ... We are two ancient peoples whose values and traditions have left an indelible mark on humanity, but we are also two peoples embracing modernity."

 

 

 The Minister asked the new Ambassador to make efforts to improve the tourist imbalance between the two countries, and to promote Israel as a desirable potential tourist destination for Chinese travelers. In conclusion, he thanked the Chinese ambassador and again wished him a warm welcome to Israel.

 

A taste of Chinese culture was presented to the guests in the form of five scintillating dance performances, each representing a different aspect and narrative of Chinese life. Beautiful music, gorgeous costumes, excellent choreography and professional dancing – a recipe for enjoyment. The other "recipe" was provided in the form of a generous and tasty dinner, allowing time for the guests to mingle and enjoy old and new friendships.

 

Among the guests who honored the Ambassador with their presence were former prime minister Ehud Barak; former minister of industry, trade & employment, Ran Cohen; former minister of internal affairs Gideon Sa'ar (with his wife, TV personality Geula Even); several ambassadors (including of Sweden and South Africa); executive editor of the "Jerusalem Post" newspaper Steve Linde; journalist Tali Lipkin Shahak; Nobel prize laureate Prof. Dan Shechtman; head of the political-military department at the ministry of defense Amos Gilad; Israel's attorney general Yehuda Weinsten, chief of staff of several ministries Moshe Benyamin; former IDF spokesperson Avi Benayahu; Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai; IOC member Alex Gilady; Prof. Raanan Rein, vice president of Tel Aviv University and many other VIPs, diplomats, society personalities and captains of industry.

 

Long may China-Israel diplomatic relations blossom.

 

 Photos  Silvia G Golan