“Made in China”. I’m sure you have seen this stamped on most of the products you use – so now it’s time to go see where it all originates! The trip is focused on Beijing, a city of 22 million people. Some of the famous sites you will see include: Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, and of course, panda bears. A visit to the Israeli embassy will allow you to appraise the current connection with Israel as well as delving a bit into the history of Jews who live in China. Finally, once you have conquered China, you will have the bragging rights to tell all your friends.
Arrive in Beijing for a quick tour of the area and some night life. We will visit Renmin University English Corner Many Chinese (mostly students) congregate here every week to practice their English speaking skills. Obviously, English-speaking foreigners will feel very welcome here. A great way to meet and interact with local Chinese. You could also use this opportunity to take a stroll around a Chinese university campus.
Start off at the famous Tiananmen Square which is the second largest city square in the world. It has great cultural significance and is best known in recent memory as the focal point of the pro-democracy movement which ended on 4 June 1989 with the declaration of martial law in Beijing by the government and the death of at least hundreds of protesters. Next is the The Forbidden City site of the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties filled with amazing Chinese architecture. Visit the Tea House and Beihai Park. Make your way to the Israeli Embassy to discuss the relationship between the two countries. Stroll in Wangfujing Street, one of the largest shopping areas in Beijing. This street is packed with stores selling clothes, tea, shoes, souvenirs, books, hats, etc – you name it! In the evening many food stalls open up along the main drag and in the little side alleys, where you can sample a large variety of delicious local Beijing snacks. Not that we are advocating eating this very non-kosher snacks but you can choose from… scorpions, starfish, seahorses and larvae. In the evening we will go to ‘The World of Suzie Wong Club’. This is a popular bar with lavish traditional Chinese furnishings inspired by “Old Shanghai” and Qing/Ming dynasty style. We are in for a treat… Thursday is “Hip Hop Bling Bling Model’s Night”.
A Full day travelling outside of Beijing including Juyongguan which is one of the three greatest passes of the Great Wall of China. Visit Jade Factory to see how the artisans work with this stone and go to the Cloisonné Factory. Cloisonne is a famous traditional enamel ware, known as the “Blue of Jingtai” in China, with a history of over 500 years. It was so called because “blue” was the typical colour used for enameling and “Jingtai” was the reign title of the 7th Ming Emperor. Stop by the Houhai Houhai Lake which is surrounded by many restaurants, bars and souvenir/apparel stores. While walking around the lake you can observe the traditional hutongs (alleys) that are fast disappearing in modern Beijing. In the evening we will go to the local Chabad House for Friday night services. This will be our chance to discuss the situation of the local Jews in China.
(Please note, a shomer shabbat alternative schedule will be offered upon request.)
Visit Temple of Heaven which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site was constructed in the 15th century. The emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties used to visit this temple every year to pray for good harvests. In the Pearl Factory you may decide to get your mother a new string of pearls or just see the craftspeople at work. Continue onto the Summer Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage site is described as “A masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. In the Yashou Market you can test your bargaining skills like in the shuks in Israel. This place is noted for the largest Adidas store in the world. And if it is a manicure you desperately need, check out the Creative Nail Beauty Salon on the fourth floor. In the evening this area has many bars and clubs and we have tickets to an authentic Kung Fu show.
It is now time to be treating like royalty on the Hutong Tour where you see the sites on a rickshaw (cart pulled by a human). No trip to China is complete without seeing the Panda bears in the Zoo. Like who doesn’t like Pandas? You will then tour the Lama Temple. Built during the Qing dynasty, the Lama Temple is the most important Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Beijing. It’s very popular with the local Chinese – many wishes and prayers made here are said to come true (sort of the like the Kotel). Another shopping opportunity will be the Silk Market which sells more than just silk. . In the evening go to Club Vics Beijing’s most well-known, biggest and baddest dance club. Vics is always packed with locals and foreigners. Perfect if you love crowds, loud music and dancing.
In the morning have a panoramic tour of city, including the 2008 Olympic Site and the Chinese Hospital. Visit the798 Art District which is located in an old, decommissioned complex of military factories. There are numerous cafes and art galleries here where you can browse and purchase paintings, pottery, etc. Look out for faded Maoist propaganda slogans on the factory walls!
Educational Rationale for a trip to China
OK. So this is not the most Jewish country in the world. However there many similarities between our cultures and China does represent a people and culture as old as our own. In a way we could imagine a Jewish culture that thrived, grew, and remained in Israel instead of being exiled. The Chinese culture developed and grew by staying stationary instead of wandering the globe. There have been Jews over the years in China; explorers who traded goods. And quite a few Jews were saved from the Holocaust by seeking refuge in China including Ehud Olmert, Israel’s former Prime Minister. Clearly like most countries of the world, Israel needs to be very careful with its relationship to China. On the one hand economically they are vital trading partners. But China poses serious challenges to democratic Israel regarding human rights abuses. And on the world political scene China needs energy and the Arab and Muslim countries have the oil. Going to China will be fun, exotic, and no doubt.