Thousands of Chinese art lovers will experience a first encounter with Israeli public diplomacy next week, when StandWithUs, one of the world's prominent Israel-advocacy groups, takes a photo exhibition of Israel to Harbin in the Asian giant's northeast. StandWithUs, which focuses on advocating Israel's position in campuses in the West, will send a group of seven delegates to Harbin to showcase Israel through an exhibition entitled "Inside Israel," comprising works from 50 of Israel's leading artists, of landscapes, nature, urban life, Judaism, ethnic groups and architecture.
"This is a new approach for us," said Michael Dickson, the U.K.-born director of StandWithUs' Israel branch, who will lead the organization's first outreach venture to China. "We identify China as an area where we can make a difference." He added the photos will help add more substance to the "two dimensional view of Israel" which exists in China. The fact that Harbin - situated 500 kilometers from the Russian border - is a long-time Jewish center formed the basis for the "strategic decision" by StandWithUs to hold the exhibition there, according to Dickson, because shared heritage would help bridge the cultural gap.
Dickson, who lives in Jerusalem, said the event was planned to coincide with the International Ice and Snow Festival on January 5-10, so as to "reach as many Chinese people as possible, while appealing also to Westerners visiting the annual event."
Information and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein commented, "It is important that this exhibition takes place in what was once the residence of the largest Jewish community in the Far East." Edelstein will present a video message on behalf of the Israeli Government at the exhibition's opening.
In China, Dickson will be joined by Tanya Stern, StandWithUs' project coordinator, who immigrated to Israel from the U.K. in 2005, and by Australian-born Jonnie Schnytzer, who is in charge of the Haifa/Technion and Bar Ilan campuses.
Roei Duani and Shmuel Junger, both Israeli born, will also be traveling to China. But none will be quite as useful in communicating with the Chinese authorities at Harbin - known as a trade gateway to Russia - as Anna Ben Ezra, a Russian-born B.A. in English linguistics, who will be able to freely speak Russian with Harbin officials.
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