Israel has a rich cultural heritage and beautiful landscapes, and must be visited to be appreciated, said Ms Tal Wang Yu, director of the Israel Government Tourist Office Beijing in an interview granted to China.org.cn on October 13.
Prevailing news coverage does not do justice to Israel, Ms Wang said. It creates an impression of a country full of conflict and danger. In fact, this is not the case at all. The country is completely safe and security poses no problem for visitors. China and the world should get to know the other side of Israel, she said.
"You can relax both body and mind in Israel," Ms Wang said. Everybody, whether a religious believer or not, will be spiritually touched by Jerusalem, the holy land of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The Mediterranean resorts, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, and the Sea of Galilee offer opportunities for complete physical relaxation, she told China.org.cn.
But Ms Wang said only about 12,000 Chinese visited Israel in 2008, just 0.3 percent of overseas travelers to Israel. And most of them were probably on business trips, given the close trade ties between the two countries.
Ms Wang said that, as Chinese people become more prosperous, they will increasingly turn to foreign travel. Israel has realized the Chinese tourism market has great potential. She added that many Chinese people are deeply interested in Israeli culture. For these reasons, the Israeli government set up an official tourist office in Beijing this March. China is one of only ten countries in the world with an Israeli government tourist office, she said.
Israeli people are also enthusiastic about China, Ms Wang said. Large numbers of Israeli tourists visit China every year. They return deeply impressed by the fast pace of development and see China as an inspiration. Some return to China again and again. Many young Israelis have fallen in love with the country and have stayed on to study the Chinese language. Chinese language courses are also widespread in Israeli universities. "Don’t be surprised if someone speaks to you in Chinese if they find out you are from China," said Ms Wang. There are sizable Israeli communities in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and some other cities, she added.
Ms Wang has been helping to arrange the "Experience China" program in Israel, and she hopes the program will promote understanding between Chinese and Israeli people.
"Experience China in Israel" begins in the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv on October 17, with a performance of the variety show "My Dream" by the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe. The Beijing Modern Dance Company will also present the modern dance show "China Vision".