From Taiwan to Israel - A Surprising Connection
Guest blog by Susan of Wonder Israel
“So, is this your first time in Israel? Do you like Israel?” Perhaps it’s not common to see an Asian girl in Israel, I get asked this question quite often.
“No, it’s my 8th time here. And I love Israel.” Every time, people react with being shocked and confused, and with another question- “Why?”
My First Visit to Israel
I never thought I would visit the “Holy Land”. Growing up Christian, Jerusalem is a name I knew since childhood, but I didn’t really know it existed on earth. Just like how familiar I was with Disney characters from watching films, I was quite familiar with the stories of Abraham, Moses, and David in the Bible. (I love David!)
Back in 2011, Israel just began granting visa-waiver program to Taiwanese, I “accidentally” made a short trip to Israel from Amman as a 21-year-old.
And strangely, when I saw the walls of Jerusalem, somehow everything felt so familiar, and I felt like I came “home”. My heart melted when I saw Jews praying at the Western Wall. I think it might be the first time I saw Jews, or I finally made the connection from the haircut, the tzitzit, or just the congregation that the children of Israel from the Bible thousands of years ago are alive! In front of my eyes!
A Girl Who Blogs About Israel
I knew back then I would go back to Israel one day, but I didn’t think it would happen anytime soon since Israel is really expensive! In Taiwan, people are spoiled with cheap, clean, and convenient food options. (For 10 shekels you can get a business lunch that comes with a drink. Taiwan is a wonderful place). Plus the world is so big, I wanted to see South America or other new places first.
But my entire family is Christian. It was mind-blowing for them that a young girl like me could travel to Israel independently. Most Asian tourists visit Israel as a group as pilgrims, they’d spend around USD$3000-$4000 for a 10-day “once in your lifetime” trip to the Holy Land. And here I was, telling my relatives about my Couchsurfing experience staying at Jewish homes. Many questions were asked, especially on the “how”.
To make the story very short, I went to Israel again, and I took my parents and my younger brother. For a 19-day trip, we spent only around USD$3000 in total (excluding airfare). I started to write down travel tips in Mandarin (Chinese) and posted them online in 2017. The blog got noticed pretty quickly, and I was met with the Taiwanese ambassador in Israel, invited to write for magazines or to speak about Israel. My travel guide book will be published this year, and I plan to start leading smaller groups to Israel. And there are many opportunities opened up that I couldn’t even imagine in the beginning.
In one of the workshops I spoke at in Taipei, a young couple with three kids came to see me… “I don’t know if you remember us, we wrote you an email in 2017, it was your blog that made our trip to Israel possible!” Their daughter was only seven-years-old, and she was telling me about her trip to Israel! It was an incredible feeling!
Many of my readers have Christian backgrounds, and they love Israel way more than I do. And I’m often encouraged by them. It hasn’t been easy to write a blog about Israel, and it certainly takes a lot of effort, but it has been an honor!