Wall of China Meets the Western Wall
Steve Gray, Guide
19 Executive MBA students in their 30’s and 40’s, from the prestigious Guanghua School of Management of Peking University traveled through Israel with Keshet in mid-April
The group, which included some spouses of the students and even one 2 ½ year old child, were quite different from most of Keshet’s traditional groups. This was not a group of Evangelical Chinese Christians, or a delegation of some pro-Zionist group; rather, these were successful business men and women who had been convinced by their classmate, Vicky Wu, to join her on a trip to Israel. They came with no particular connection to Israel. They came with virtually no knowledge of Judaism. They had a general awareness of Christianity and certainly had no emotional connection to anything biblical. Religion itself was for most of them a foreign concept. Some were Buddhists, but for the most part the concept of faith was not something they could relate to.
So how does one create a program that will engage, enthrall, educate and energize the participants? Keshet, prides itself in providing experiences that stay with participants and create a connection to Israel and its people. Delivering on this promise for this group presented a significant challenge. Oh, did I mention that the group members spoke no English? All of our guiding, our source materials, our maps had to be delivered in Chinese. And since my Chinese vocabulary is limited to two or three words, I would not be able to communicate directly with most of the group. Everything would be done with a translator. This was a new challenge for me and for the entire Keshet organization.
We worked closely with Vicky, a Jewish Chinese national and recent immigrant to Israel. Together with her we put together a program with a balance of business, religious, historical and political sites. All of this was seasoned with a liberal dose of excellent food and fine wines. Bit by bit we, together with excellent support by our Chinese translator, found ways to connect to the land, to the history, to the mosaic of Israeli religious expression and to one another. Eight packed days full of information, sites, eating, drinking, laughing and even crying.
And what did the participants take with them at the end? In their own words: An appreciation of the strength of the Jewish People in their land, a sense of the patriotism and love the people have for their country, a surprising identification with the joy of Shabbat and the tangible spirituality of Jerusalem, a wonderment at the depth and breadth of religious expression. They take back with them a recognition of the intrinsic optimism and creativity that drives Israeli society and perhaps most importantly of all, an appreciation of the State of Israel that has substance beyond what they had seen or heard through the media.
We hope to host many more groups from China in the future.