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The Chinese in Israel are comprised of a few separate groups. The guest workers in the construction section dominate numerically, while there are also small groups of Jews from China who have made aliyah, as well as foreign students studying in Israeli universities.

Chinese who have made aliyah Edit

Template:Section-stub The first Jewish immigrant from China to Israel was Sara Imas, a former Chinese citizen with a German Jewish father and Jiangsu mother, who was born and raised in China and lived through the Cultural Revolution. She came to Israel in 1991, but later returned to Shanghai as the representative of a diamond company after gaining Israeli citizenship and living in Israel for 12 years.[1] Of the roughly 600 Chinese families from the city of Kaifeng who claim to have been Jews for many generations -- only one has been able to make aliyah. As most are unable to prove their matrilineal Jewish descent, Israeli religious courts have required them to undergo Orthodox conversions in order to be recognised as Jews.[2]

The current situation of Kaifeng Jewish descendants is complex. Within the framework of contemporary rabbinical Judaism, only matrilineal transmission of Jewishness is recognized (a Jew is a convert or someone whose mother is a Jew), while Chinese Jews recognized only patrilineal descent. They are not, therefore, recognized as Jews by other Jewish communities and are also ineligible for automatic Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Most descendants of Kaifeng's Jewish community are vaguely aware of their ancestry, but few have direct sources indicating their descent; the vast majority are unfamiliar with a Jewish identity in common with Jews elsewhere. This situation may be changing as Jewish groups from outside China continue their efforts to educate the descendants of the Kaifeng community about their religious and ethnic heritage.

Guest workers Edit

The number of Chinese workers in Israel has been estimated to be 23,000, of whom less than half are employed. Many are remaining in the country and working in violation of the terms of their visas.[3]

Entrance into Israel Edit

There is evidence of Chinese workers paying as much as US$19,000 just for the opportunity to get a visa to Israel and work there. This is usually paid by illegal loans to which family members are guarantors. It has been estimated that about 70 percent of those payments go to Israeli manpower companies. Workers are promised wages as high as US$1500, but sometimes find their actual wages are as low as only US$200. The manpower companies also often retain the passports of workers, allegedly for safekeeping purposes, and force the workers to pay a fine to get their passports back.[4]

Deportation Edit

Chinese workers are in the worst situation of all the nationalities working in Israel since most of them are unable to speak Hebrew or English, have no community in the country to help them - as most of the other nationalities have - and are totally at the mercy of their employers. If something is wrong with their visa, if they have been brought to do a job that they are untrained for, or if they try to leave an employer who ignores their rights, they are immediately liable to be deported.

In many cases, Chinese workers are deported because of the misdeeds of their employer. An Israeli State Comptroller's report from 1998 highlighted the situation whereby if an employer did not pay the requisite fees, his workers would be arrested as a sanction. If the employer was caught moving the workers to a different place than specified by their visas, the workers would be arrested and deported.[5]

Government response Edit

The Chinese government, which has recently begun taking a closer interest in the welfare of its citizens working in Israel, blames the local authorities in Israel for being uncooperative and for placing the workers' welfare at a low priority.[citation needed]

Anti-Chinese racismEdit

Israeli public officials sometimes make anti-foreigner remarks in relation to the guest worker issue. Most notably, in 2001, then-labor and social affairs minister Shlomo Benizri said: "I just don't understand why a restaurant needs a slant-eye to serve me my meal."[6] Even Jews of Chinese descent suffer harassment and poor treatment by immigration police.[2]

Employers have also been known to impose humiliating restrictions on Chinese workers in their employment contracts. In 2003, a report by The Guardian stated that Chinese workers at an unspecified company had been required to agree not to have sex with or marry Israeli women, including prostitutes, as a condition of getting a job. An anonymous Israeli lawyer, however, claims that these contracts only appear legal but could be proven illegal if challenged in court.[7]

Naftali Tamir, drew fire in Israel and Australia and a reprimand from his superiors in October was quoted saying the following: “Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia,” Tamir had said, explaining why Israel and Australia should cooperate. “We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don’t have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not, we are basically the white race.”

See alsoEdit


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