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Special> Video> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: May 19, 2010 Web Exclusive
In the Name of Life
An exclusive interview with Amos Nadai, Israeli Ambassador to China


Beijing Review: The Shanghai World Expo kicked off on May 1. This is the first time Israel has committed to building a national pavilion at a World Expo. Would you please give some basic information about the Israeli Pavilion for the Expo?

Amos Nadai: Personally, I am very happy with this because I was involved in planning Israel's participation in the Shanghai Expo long before I came here to be the Ambassador of Israel.

As you've mentioned, Israel does not usually participate in Expos. In my last position as the Director General of Asian Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I thought it was very important for Israel to take part in the Shanghai Expo. So it was my job to go up to the Prime Minister's office and convince the people over there that it was absolutely necessary that we participate. We had two sessions and a positive approval was given. So I have a personal involvement in Israel's participation. I am very glad because it would be unheard of for Israel not to participate in an Expo that is being held in Shanghai.

The word "life" is a very important part of our participation. The theme of the Expo is "Better City, Better Life," and "life" is behind our participation as well. The theme of our pavilion is also "Better Life." We are just now marking the 18th anniversary of China-Israel relations—we signed the agreement on diplomatic relations 18 years ago in 1992. The figure 18 in Hebrew means "life." In Hebrew, every letter has a numeric value and the two figures together—1 and 8—mean "life." So "life" is the theme of both the Expo and the Israeli Pavilion.

Let me give you an example. At the entrance to our pavilion, there will be an orchard consisting of 54 orange trees. About 60 years ago we started a modern country and economic activities around raising orchards, so we planted 54 trees, which is three times the figure 18. So "life" is going to be the main theme of the Israeli Pavilion.

The Israeli Pavilion is not going to be as big as the China Pavilion—it's going to be, by the way, very close to the China Pavilion. It's on the way from the main entrance to the China Pavilion, so I am sure that we are going to have a lot of visitors coming from the entrance to the China Pavilion. It's going to be something very special. The architecture has a lot to do with China, even the architect. His family has a Chinese connection—his mother's family came to Shanghai. Here we are talking about "life" again. The Jewish people, who suffered during the Second World War, were almost all over Europe. We were persecuted and murdered. It was only the Chinese people that accepted them very warmly, and especially the people of Shanghai. So there are lots of circles here that we are closing at this Expo in Shanghai.

The pavilion is going to be very special. It's very difficult to explain, but the architecture design is very special. It's going to be like two hands or two snails, like they are talking to each other. One is from very solid stone and one will be transparent glass. That would mean "dialogue": a dialogue between man and man, a dialogue between Israel and China if you want, or a dialogue between man and nature.

One of the halls is going to be a huge transparent hall from which you will be able to see the beautiful sky above. The other hall is going to be a little bit darker, but it's going to contain many of the most advanced Israeli technologies. We are much smaller than China, but like China, we depend a lot upon our old history, traditions, and culture. And like China, during the last 60 years, we have developed a very modern and successful society. And we are very proud of the technologies that we have designed.

We live in a part of the world, unlike China, that is much poorer. Our country doesn't have natural resources. We don't have water and we have to work very hard in order to come up with technologies that enable us to survive in that very difficult area. Israel has shared those technologies with so many countries around the world, including China. So the second hall, the one that is also transparent but darker, will contain multiple ways to show the most advanced Israeli technologies. I am sure that people will be stunned.

Are there any special arrangements, such as cultural performances or tourism promotion, during the six-month Expo?

We really think the Shanghai Expo should be a very important platform for bringing people together through art and culture. It's something that this embassy has been doing for a very long time. But, of course, the Expo will give us a stage, will give us a platform. And the best Israeli performances will come to China, to Shanghai to present Israeli culture in music, in dance, in theater. And I am sure everybody will be very happy to see them.

What is your understanding of the Expo's theme—"Better City, Better Life"?

Well, I have been here in China for two and half years, and China, like so many other countries, is going to face in the next couple of years a huge challenge of urbanization. I think the figures say that hundreds of millions of Chinese people are going to come from the provinces, from the rural areas into the cities. Making a better life for people in the cities is a huge challenge for China, but not only China. I think most of the other countries in the world have different numbers, but they face the same challenge. And arranging or creating a better life in better cities is again a function of using the right technologies. So we are very happy that what we have actually been doing in China for years now has become the theme of this Expo. And as I said, Israel shared in the past and will continue to share its technologies with our Chinese friends for better lives and better cities.

What is your expectation for the Expo?

Well, in a way, it reminds me of the Olympic Games (in Beijing in 2008), in the sense that people from all over the world will be coming. But unlike the Olympic Games, which was held for three weeks, the Expo is going to be held for six months. This will give people the opportunity to be together. In the process I hope that people will develop friendships and warm feelings for each other. That human respect and friendship between peoples is something that I very much look forward to.

Are you planning to visit other pavilions?

I will certainly go to the China Pavilion. I visited the Expo grounds almost a year ago. And it was then only the China Pavilion that had really been built. Of course I will go see the China Pavilion, but other than that I don't have a specific plan. I will definitely go to as many pavilions as I am able to see. I will be at the Shanghai Expo several times because we are going to have quite a few very important people from my country—ministers, relevant officers—that will be coming and I will probably go with them. So I will be there several times and I hope to see as many pavilions as possible.


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