Bar-Ilan University representatives at ancient preservation village in China
Shangjing village in Zhejiang province in China, sponsored by the Chinese foreign affairs office, initiated a special ancient villages’ preservation project in which international volunteered students were invited to take part. Eventually, 48 chosen volunteers were gathered at the village in September (2017), accompanied by 17 guides and translators Chinese students. The Sir Naim Dangoor Program for Universal Monotheism, Bar Ilan University, headed by Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, sent two representatives to the project: Mrs. Irit Shmuely, a Ph.D. candidate at the department of urban studies, Geography and Mr. Iyar Nitzan, an Asia studies student at the Humanities.
The goal of the project, as defined by the Chinese initiators, was to promote tourism to unfamiliar historical villages in China. The project organizers divided the participants into two teams, each was given an assignment, while the final goal was to establish an attractive touristic plan. A filming crew documented the creative team's activities while the construction team planned in details and construct the chosen touristic attraction. "The attraction the team choose, describes Iyar Nitzan (who was head of the filming team), was to create a fairy tale path to youngsters and their families. The path crossed the entire village, and included attraction stations stops, were folklore tales and classical stories were told, encouraging the visitor to perform some joyful activity. Irit Shmuely (head of the construction crew) affirms: “The crew that I led was responsible to the path attraction planning, its construction as well as creating the programming codes to be scanned by smartphones at the these stations. In each stop, these recorded audio tales in either English and Chinese where heard”. In addition to the intensive assignments and activity, the participants were hosted by the locals, taken to nearby nature reserves sightseeing, visited ancient temples, joined local culture activities which were organized by the local hosts.
During the festive opening event, each member of the international delegation participants presented the local officials a symbolical gifts, which represented his national culture. Iyar Nitzan, presented a token that attracted the most attention, at was offered directly to the head of the village, a seven cans silver menorah. Iyar explained to the hosts and the guests its significant to the Jewish culture.
Dr. Gurevitch concludes the experience: “There is no doubt that the journey to Shangjing was not only an enjoyable and challenging experience for the Israeli student, but also a mission of added value to an unmediated encounter with authentic Chinese culture. The privilege of being part of an international delegation, shared by so many countries reminded to all the responsibility we hold to the world we live in. I truly hope that the dominance and creativity of the Israeli team will be remembered fondly and that we will be invited again to similar initiatives in the future to come".