'In China, the Library Had Books About Becoming Rich Like a Jew. But It's Not anti-Semitic'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: A diplomacy student who is helping build cooperation between Israeli and Chinese women, and a couple of tour guides who are brought closer together by traveling apart

Or Lustinger and Karin Raviv.
Tomer Appelbaum

Or Lustinger, 31, and Karin Raviv, 32; live in Tel Aviv, arriving from Bangkok

Hello, can I ask you how it was?

Or: It was really nice. We flew to Thailand.

Karin: A trip of good friends.

Or: We started in Bangkok and from there went to the islands.

Karin: We traveled a little with a nice Brazilian couple, and we also rented a kayak. I rowed and she held water with the oar.

Or: Which is very symbolic of our relationship.

Karin: And we got to a small strip of beach where there was no one, where we had the best time.

Or: But the tour guide we were with that day got uptight and came looking for us. Afterward we went to Ko Phi Phi – my second time. And it was disappointing. Crowded like crazy. But Bangkok was very interesting.

Karin: First of all, it’s the most tourist-visited city in the world.

Or: We had a chance to sit with a Chinese woman who has a chain of hostels – she says things are easier there than in China. It’s hard to be a woman of 30 in China.

Karin: You’re expected to get married, have children, reduce your work volume and live near the parents.

Sounds exactly the same as in Israel.

Karin: The pressure is more intense in China. On every subject. Let’s say, you have to study. There’s a very difficult exam after high school according to which people are admitted to university. If you get accepted into a good university, you’re set for life; and if not, no one will employ you at all. In Israel, for example, you can not have a degree and still work in programming.

Do the two of you have degrees?

Or: Yes. We met when we were both taking an undergraduate degree in East Asian studies. We completed our studies six years ago.

Can a degree in East Asian studies be useful?

Karin: I’m now doing a master’s in diplomacy and security at Tel Aviv University, and I work a lot with China. There are more and more business ties between China and Israel.

Yes, even I’ve heard about that.

Karin: It’s been talked about a great deal in recent years. Chinese investors are coming to Israel, and Israeli companies are trying to enter China. It’s not easy, because in business you have to trust one another, and the business culture is very different.

Is the rumor that the Chinese think highly of us true?

Karin: Yes. When I did a semester in China, a library there had books like “How to Succeed in Business Like a Jew,” and “How to Be Rich Like a Jew.” It’s not anti-Semitic, you have to understand, they just think that the Jews are smart. I work with Chinese companies and I’m also working with a project called Guan She – there’s a word in Chinese, “Guanxi,” that sounds exactly the same and means “business connections.” The goal is to create academic and business cooperation between Israeli and Chinese women.

Good luck. Or, what did you do with your degree?

Or: I work in the Interior Ministry’s Central District for Economic Development of the Local Authorities. I’m studying for a master’s in urban planning at Tel Aviv University. In that connection, I had a nice time in Bangkok, it’s a wild city.

In what sense?

Or: It’s a mega-city. There’s something like 10 to 15 million people there. New and old, traditional with modern. The size, the difference between poor and rich. You’re in a luxurious mall and a meter away people are living in extreme poverty, neglected houses, garbage in the streets. And because of the rapid development of the Asian cities, the gaps only keep growing.

Karin: In Beijing, for example, small businesses that don’t look good are being closed, and the poor are simply evacuated out of the city.

Or: They’re thrown to the margins. And then in the ring around the city there is the poverty of shacks and garbage, and it’s expanding all the time.

Karin: The public transportation there is super-convenient.

Or: I forgot, we were also in Ko Lanta.

Karin: We did volunteer work in a shelter for dogs and cats. It was important for me, because I do volunteer work with dogs in Israel, too.

A worthy goal. Tell me.

Karin: In two places. One project is called “Blanket for Happiness,” which collects blankets for cat-and-dog shelters. I also volunteer with Yuval Mendelovich, who rescues dogs that are considered dangerous: pit bulls and Amstaffs. He saves them from dog fights and from places that abuse them, rehabilitates them and finds them homes. It’s all him, there’s no funding, only volunteers and donors.

Asi Arbiv and Scotchy Lev.
Tomer Appelbaum

Asi Arbiv, 47, and Scotchy Lev, 57; live in Netanya; Scotchy is flying to Buenos Aires

Hello, can I ask about that hat?

Scotchy: I’m a tour guide, and the hat is the way to create visibility. People don’t remember faces, so I send them a photograph with a hat.

Asi, are you also a guide?

Asi: Yes, for the past six years.

Scotchy: I’ve been a guide for two and a half years. That’s how we met.

Tell us.

Scotchy: We met in a lecture about art. Tour guides are constantly engaged in learning and enrichment.

The lecturer talked about an artist I wasn’t familiar with, and suddenly a woman shouted, “Georgia O’Keeffe!” I wondered who that girl was who knew something that I didn’t know. I couldn’t take it in.

Asi: Today he knows more about Georgia O’Keeffe than I do. Afterward, I was in Italy and got an email from him. On the same day three other guides wrote asking me for a briefing on southern Italy, because I had worked there four weeks nonstop.

Isn’t “briefing” advertising jargon?

Asi: It just means an update. A serious guide who hasn’t been to a certain place for a few months checks with a guide who has just returned about what’s open, what’s happening. And even though Scotchy didn’t write me anything about southern Italy, only about coffee, somehow all those emails became connected for me. In short, we meet, sit down, and I, serious and prepared, pull out brochures and books and start to talk. And he? Doesn’t say a thing, and then I realize that he’s not listening, and that already makes me mad. I said to him, “Let’s end the meeting.” He asked why. I told him, “Because you’re impudent. You invited me to a briefing, so at least listen.” And he said, “Who said anything about a briefing? I didn’t understand: “So why did you invite me?” And he said, “Because I like you.”

And since then you’ve been guiding happily ever after?

Asi: That’s the dream, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Scotchy: It preserves a wonderful relationship.

Asi: To part each time is sweet sadness.

Scotchy: Maybe it’s good, because this way we never quarrel. We have completely different approaches to tour-guiding.

What are the differences?

Scotchy: My thinking is creative and she prefers to stick to the procedures. I try to give the travelers extra, even though they don’t always appreciate it.

Asi: I say that first you need to check what the group wants, the level of cooperation and interest. Because, actually you’re dealing with people.

Who goes on organized tours these days?

Scotchy: Our crowd is getting older: 50s, 60s-plus. Young people know how to get along by themselves. We get people who don’t know how to get along on their own, or who at this stage in their life don’t feel like making an effort.

In an organized tour, like in every group, is there always one pest?

Scotchy: There are some who suck out energy and some who spread light and joy. But you learn how to function with all of them. By the way, the Hebrew word for pest, nudnik, is from nudneh, which is Polish for boring. It’s important to know linguistics, too. A good tour guide has to know everything.

Asi: Not everything, but most things.

Tips for travelers?

Scotchy: Let the travelers start to give tips.

Asi: That really is a problematic topic. Not everyone understands that the guide gives service but is not a servant.

Scotchy: And when it comes to packaging, less is more. Not to be afraid to wear the same pants for three days.

Asi: You can do laundry. Styling for women: less black, more gray and blue. That’s the basis, you can add color in the accessories. Which are in any case less heavy.

Scotchy: A standup comic said that a woman doesn’t pack clothes, she packs conflicts. The yellow dress or the red?