Israel through the eyes of people in Taiwan

This morning on the way to a meeting with one of our clients in Taipei, we had a chat with the Taxi driver: “Where are from?” he asked (in Chinese), “Israel” we replied. From that moment on, we couldn’t stop him from bragging about his knowledge with regards to Israel. We have to say, we were impressed. He knew everything from figures like Moshe Dayan to Israel’s Agriculture innovation (thanks to Discovery Channel). Most times a Taxi driver finds out about our origin, his immediate respond is thumbs up. “We have something in common, we share same threats, both nations are surrounded by enemies” drivers often state, even thought Israel has peace agreement with two of its neighbors and Chinese missiles are not exactly flying over Taiwan’s sky or vise versa. Following Israel’s new campaign- Masbirim, this post aims to give a glimpse to the perception of Israel among Taiwan people.

The Israeli Campaign- Masbirim

Israel’s Ministry of Information and Diaspora Affairs launched recently an innovative P.R. campaign, designed to educate Israelis on how to spread a positive Word of Mouth on their (our) country. The efforts include distribution of pocket pamphlets at Ben-Gurion Airport and a website, while main target are Israelis who live abroad or those who have international ties. “Masbirim”- the Hebrew word for “explaining” (in this context means “doing the informative work”), consists media tools and tips that suppose to assist those who recruit themselves for the mission of introducing Israel in a flattering light.

Many chose to criticize this initiative; “Israel’s Hebrew-Only Promotional Campaign. Converting the world in its own language?”, “Masbirim Ministry is under the false perception that the world thinks Israel is backwards and everyone rides a camel”. But, as much as we hate to disagree with critic above, we run into discussions that leave no doubt that informative work should be done at the personal level as well. Needless to say, some of the people you’ll meet will impress you with their knowledge and admiration to Israel, but people in Taiwan don’t admire Israel for the same reasons Israel wish to be admired. Due to the nature of MultiReach’s work and since we are Israeli expatriates, we do share the feeling that Israel’s accomplishments in other areas (but Military) should be highlighted.

The Taiwanese perception

Here is a glimpse to conversations we encounter: In one of our discussion we had with a Supply Chain Manager we had hard time convincing him to trust EMS service efficiency as he was sure Israel’s only mean of transportation is Camels. In another conversation, a customer that learned about the fact we are from Israel, asked us if females are allowed to go out and whether they have to wear a veil. Although there are few examples here, the reason we brought them was to stress the point that it’s not a false perception of the Masbirim Ministry, some people do think Israeli ride camels.

And then, there are those who admire Israel due to it’s military strength. One morning when I went to the nearest 7-11 to get the daily newspaper, one of the customers was surprised when he heard the staff people turn to me in Chinese. “她聽得懂嗎? – Does she understand?”- “I do”, I replied with the biggest smile. “Wow, where are you from?” he immediately moved to English. “Israel” I replied with national pride. “You guys have the best army in the world”- a very common comment. “Right”, I nod my head politely, quite bothered by the fact that this is the first thing that pops up to one’s head when mentioning Israel. But Israelis living in Taiwan are not angry when they encounter situations like described above. Moreover, we’re surprised they even know about this small country in the Middle East. Taiwan is three times bigger than Israel (size and population) and even though we followed many Israelis and toured East Asia after serving in the army, we knew nothing about this island prior to our arrival here.

Generally speaking, people in Taiwan admire Jews and admire Israel, often fail to separate Religion and Nationality. Some of them visited Israel as part of a combined trip to Egypt and Jordan, some went there for business and others went there following Jesus. Some are attending Friday night services at the local “synagogue” (a room in hotel) hoping the Rabbi will teach them the “wisdom”. “What is it in the Jewish education that makes you Jews so successful?” we’ve been asked many times and just so you know bookshelves are full of books in Chinese titled: “Jews teach you how to do business”. Taiwan people pay respect to Israeli military achievements, strong Jewish lobby in the US and significant presence in world’s financial institutions. But little do they know about Israeli Innovation & Technology.

Due to the nature of our work (along with national pride) and as a company that facilitates the flow of technology and investments between Israel and Taiwan, MultiReach is committed to promote Israel’s image as R&D center, as an innovation hub. That’s why we thought it would be better if people would learn from “other” books available in the market and gifted our clients with “Start-up Nation”. In their book, Senior & Singer address a more specific question: “How is it that Israel—a country of 7.1 million people, only sixty years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with no natural resources—produces more start-up companies than large, peaceful, and stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom?”. “Start-up Nation” addresses the Israeli Chutzpah, the country’s adversity-driven culture, the flatten hierarchy and informality- all backed up by government policies focused on innovation as key factors influencing and creating the Jewish/ Israeli Success Story and this is the image we (and the Israeli campaign- masbirim) wish to promote.

Here are some Cool Facts about Israel:

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