A Chinese Jew in Israel

BY DAN-CHYI CHUA
Oct 13, 2010
*Special to asia!

Jin Jin, or Yecholiya Jin, is a Kaifeng Jew who moved to Israel five years ago.

 

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Q: What is the biggest difference between being a Jew in Kaifeng and being a Jew here?

Yecholiya Jin (YJ): In Kaifeng, being a Jew means having a strong sense of Jewish identity, but not a lot of preservation of Jewish customs, the way it is here in Israel. For a lot of people there, they had the same sentiments as me – that we are Jews and we wanted to return to Israel.

In Kaifeng it is more about being an ideological Jew, but there was not a lot of contact with things Jewish. After being here, I think I have become more of a practising Jew.

Q: What is the most meaningful Jewish festival for you?

YJ: Yom Kippur.

When people hear “Day of Atonement”, an initial reaction tends to be fear. I was like that.

I thought, it must be very solemn, especially since it is a day of fast as well. It gave me a sense of foreboding and darkness. I thought everyone would be in black and very deep in prayer. But after going through Yom Kippur, I saw that they are dressed in white, and it was fascinating to learn from my religious studies that on Yom Kippur, we abandon our physical bodies and are in a spiritual, almost angelic state.

Jews know that God is very merciful and will definitely forgive them on Yom Kippur. Hence they are repenting of their sins to God with joyful hearts, and welcoming a new life, because after Yom Kippur, you really receive a new life, so I really like it.

 

Q: How did you spend it this year?

YJ: Alone at home, because I wanted to quietly reflect on the past year and converse with God.

 

Q: What has been the most satisfying thing for you these five years in Israel?

YJ: I am now a tour guide, and it is when people change their impressions about Israel after I receive a group. They will ask me if I am a person of faith and I think from this point of view, it gives me recognition as a person and spiritually.

A lot of people do not understand Israel. They think there are bombs going off every day and terrorist attacks. But after spending four or five days here, they realised Israel is not so chaotic.

 

Q: What is the most meaningful place for you in Jerusalem?

YJ: The Western Wall. Every time, whether I am feeling extremely upset or extremely happy, I will go there.

 

Q: We have just passed Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. What are your thoughts and hopes?

YJ: I want to go back to school as soon as possible, and to bring my parents here for a reunion.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi