By: Danny Kim, Northeastern University, Hasbara Fellow
I couldn’t believe my odds that night. How on earth was this possible?
A couple nights before leaving Israel, Nissim (another Fellow on the trip) and I went on a late night stroll to the Kotel. I was curious to learn more about Judaism and its roots, and Nissim gladly took the job. And we thought, ‘what better place than the Kotel to talk on this topic?’ As we entered the prayer area in the men’s section, we found an Asian gentleman with a kippah. “Wow, Asian Jews do exist!” I remember telling Nissim in laughter. Amused, we went back to our conversation about the Shema and the importance of reciting prayers in Judaism. It was then we found ourselves in the company of the Asian gentleman we earlier saw. “May I join?” he asked. We gladly agreed.
Later in the conversation, we found out that this gentleman was one of the 30 exchange doctors from China working in Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. He was visiting Jerusalem that weekend to learn more about Judaism as a Christian. WHAT? We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. Less than a week ago, we visited the hospital and heard about this exchange program—what are the odds! However, what surprised us even more was this: the Asian gentleman was telling us how free he felt to be able to say to others that he is a Christian. “In China, I would rarely reveal my faith to others. Being openly Christian in China is still a big no-no in the country. But, here, I feel so free! I feel like I’m home!” Wow.
I remember that night very vividly. Nissim and I were dancing back (quite literally) to our hotel. “Can you believe this? I love this country. I absolutely love it,” Nissim kept telling me—I couldn’t agree more.
Eitan, our charismatic staff, kept asking us from day one to constantly ask ourselves why we are here. For some of the fellows, finding an answer was quite easy or natural. For myself—a non-Jew studying pharmacy/entrepreneurship—it was quite challenging. But, that night, I found my answer: I came on the Hasbara Fellowships Israel Program to learn more about and protect the country where people from other religions like the Asian gentleman and I can come, explore, and connect with their religious roots.
So, to those of you who strive to do the same, I propose a virtual toast—L’Chaim!