Thursday, February 9, 2017

Quiet Asian Connections

Japanese doll in the Haifa Japan museum / 
If you shut your eyes and use hearing and smell, a few places here will not seem like Israel. Sometimes Tel Aviv streets can be mistaken with another European city. London and Moscow come to mind first. But Paris, Berlin, Rome or Amsterdam would also be good guess. The languages you hear mix with the local Hebrew, Arabic and Russian in a symphony of voices. More Russian and English is heard in cafes and shops at popular spots than the local Hebrew. Shops and cafes are (unfortunately) styled in "western generic" format carrying internationally branded products. This acceptance of Israel as an appendage to western Europe is old news. But recently we see small groups of Chinese and South Korean joining the mix. There are also a few Thai and Singaporeans and the tilt toward the east becomes a real tourist trend. Unlike westerners the few Asian tourists and business visitors are quiet in their manners. Some seem to wonder what has happened in Israel the last few decades. Some are focused on their pilgrimage or technology tasks. Here to see ancient sites or the latest high technology products. Maybe even steal a peek at the incredible start-up machine. 


Israel has suffered from the steady relentless Palestinian international negative P/R. In Europe this is an old story. But now it started in North America. For Asian countries, the Israeli - Palestinian situation is almost non-existent. This situation seems to reflect the complex history of European countries with the middle east and the Jews. Anyway, the simpler, less aggravating political factor is just one element which bring Asians to Israel. The attraction also comes from Israel's success. Israel has succeeded in the last century more than any other country in Asia. While South Korea, Singapore and China developed quickly the last few decades, Israel started developing into a modern state in the late 1800s. This continued growth is fascinating to any developing country industrialist and bureaucrat. In practical terms, Israel is a nice place to visit. Not rich with culture as Europe, yet safe and quiet. All together, Israel is becoming a vacation and business destination to Asians. 


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