Rich & relatable

Many aspects of Israeli culture and lifestyles have been brought to Vietnam over the years by the Israeli embassy.

By Le Diem on October 09,2018 11:20 AM

Rich & relatable

photos: Israeli Embassy

A special Jewish atmosphere will cover a corner of Hanoi on October 27, in the city center’s Ly Thai To Square. The event is open to all to come and enjoy traditional music performances and try some of the folk dances typical in Jewish festivals. There are also some surprises from Israel for those at the event to discover, according to Mr. Doron Lebovich, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Vietnam. Organized by the embassy, this is the biggest event being held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of relations between Vietnam and Israel.

Launching celebrations earlier this year, Achinoam Nini (known also as Noa), a leading Israeli international singer, was invited to perform in Hanoi. She also performed at the Hue Festival later on, with a unique Israeli repertoire. She was the first Jewish person to perform at the Vatican, 15 years ago, and has done so many times since. She also wrote the lyrics to and recorded the hugely successful theme song for the Academy Award-winning film “La vita è bella”.

Along with Noa, several other well-known singers from Israel have also been invited to perform in Vietnam by the embassy, as music is one of many aspects being introduced to Vietnamese audiences, according to Mr. Lebovich.

The embassy has tried to bring a diverse range of rich Israeli culture to Vietnam. “We have had many layers of connections over the 25 years,” he said. “Many are government-to-government, with important visits by leaders from both countries, as well as in business, with trade agreements signed, and also people-to-people, which is very important. The embassy wants to expose Vietnamese to typical Israeli culture.”

Witnessing the rapid changes in Vietnam over recent years and noting that local people are paying greater attention to lifestyles, especially fashion, the embassy has also brought leading fashion designers to fashion events in the country.

Last year the embassy chose to bring Shenkar, one of the most prominent design schools in Israel and regarded as among the ten best fashion schools in the world, to join Vietnam International Fashion Week (VIFW), to attract domestic and international public attention. The designs from Shenkar won the hearts of Vietnamese fashion fans with the uniqueness and creativity of its students, according to Mr. Lebovich.

This year, three emerging Israeli designers - Dana Cohen, Hili Ari and Idan Laroz - were invited to bring their fashions to two different shows at VIFW 2018. All three designers demonstrated their collections at this year’s Tel Aviv Fashion Week 2018, a renowned international fashion show in Israel, and received good reviews. One collection uniquely used recycled fabric, making it more than fashion in expressing sustainability in the long term.

Rich & relatable

The embassy plans to cooperate with Vietnamese designers at Vietnamese fashion shows in Israel, with the participation of Israeli TV and media, Mr. Lebovich added.

Another aspect from Israel the embassy has brought to Vietnam is Israeli cinema. Different genres of Israeli movies have been screened for free at cinemas in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, from comedy to drama, and especially documentaries, which are not often screened at cinemas. Children’s movies were added this year, including “Abulele”, which was screened for 80 children at the Birla Children’s Village orphanage on the occasion of International Children’s Day on June 1.

These movies are mostly new and show not only the culture, lifestyle and society of Israel but also the commonality between the two countries, with themes Vietnamese can relate to.

Held for a few years already, the movie festival attracts higher audience numbers every year. It has expanded from a three-day event with one screening a day to a five-day event with two screenings a day. “We are happy to see more and more Vietnamese interested in Israeli movies and in getting to know about Israel,” said Mr. Lebovich.

With the same goal of bringing something relatable and of interest to Vietnam, books written by Israeli authors have also been translated into Vietnamese. For example, “Start-up Nation” shares Israeli startup’s experiences, while “Let There be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World” tells the story of when Israel was a dry and barren place short of water, which has echoes of Vietnam today as it faces climate change, especially drought in the Mekong Delta.

After these books received a warm welcome in Vietnam, the embassy brought others by famous authors to promote Israeli literature, such as “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, “Suddenly a Knock on the Door”, and “The Soul Bird”, a children’s book.

The embassy recently launched a competition on Facebook for Vietnamese, seeking ideas and a design for the front cover of the next book to be translated into Vietnamese, which won the Man Booker International Prize in 2017 and is called “A Horse Walks into a Bar”, by David Grossman, one of the most well-known Israeli authors. More than 100 ideas have been entered in the competition. “We’re trying to not only bring the book to Vietnam but also get local people involved and passionate about it,” said Mr. Lebovich.

As more and more startups have gone into business in recent years, a range of related events have been held in Vietnam by the embassy. Together with bringing successful Israeli startups to Vietnam to present talks at seminars, the embassy also organizes competitions for Vietnamese startups to display their business ideas. Winners in Vietnam join winners in other countries to have the chance to visit Israel to not only learn about Israeli startups but also build networks.

In addition, the Mashav (the Hebrew acronym for Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation) program has sent hundreds of Vietnamese to Israel to attend short courses and international seminars and workshops since 1993. Under the Mashav scholarship program, many experts from Israel have also been sent to Vietnam to conduct workshops and training courses at universities on subjects such as agriculture, education and community development, economic and social development, rural and urban development, medicine and public health, and technology. The Mashav was launched in late 1957 with the aim of sharing with the rest of the developing world the know-how and technologies that provided the basis for Israel’s own rapid development.

“All of these events are about sharing what is well-known about Israel and what we have experienced and been successful with and also relate to Vietnam, to support its development and tighten the relationship between the two countries,” Mr. Lebovich said.

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