OK–after all the lazy blogger content (photos), here’s a short piece re: the substance of the past two weeks. And just who were those unmasked men traveling with us?

We were part of an American Jewish Committee (AJC) mission to Asia led by Bob Elman, AJC national president, a sometime San Francisco resident and friend; Jim Busis, the professional director of AJC’s Asia-Pacific Institute (API) based in Washington, DC; and Gary Jacobs, the lay chair of the AJC’s API, from Los Angeles. Also with us were Gosia Weiss (a stunning blonde), who works for AJC in Los Angeles, and Cliff Goldstein, new Los Angeles AJC president; Ken Kahan, an AJC member from Los Angeles; and Murray Lee, from Seattle, who runs a trading business in Asia.

The big-time included meetings with American and Israeli embassy or consular people in every city. AJC considers itself the “State Department of the Jewish people,” and we were well received, as the photos indicate. By the way, all the Israelis served refreshments, and the Americans didn’t! Other meetings were with Chinese politicians, academics, etc. Issues included various views toward US, Israel, Korea/Iran…

What was really heartening, especially in the wake of the news from the US in the past week, was how happy the Israelis are in Asia, without the kind of angst usually expressed and experienced by their colleagues in the US, especially San Francisco. In Japan Israel got tremendous PR mileage out of its field hospital operations for earthquake/tsunami victims.  The ambassador in Japan said he didn’t even have to make a push–the outpouring of gratitude just happened. In Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, too, there is content in the local Israeli quarters. Very refreshing. The only sadness was memorial service for two French Jewish members of the Shanghai community killed in recent terrorist bombing in Morocco–a stunning young couple who left a small son (and she was pregnant). Not an anti-Jewish attack, just vacationers in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was poignant to share the service with the Shanghai community.

Our official “minder” organization in China  (China International Friendship…need to look it up…) organized the think tank conference and hosted two banquets. Gary Jacobs’s business ties led to the one at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, a treat few people get!

Expat Jewish life flourishes, too, in Asia, and it was great to meet Jews in China, in addition to our own family! Made us feel way less weird. The last night of the mission, in Hong Kong, the local Jewish community hosted us. Everyone there, except our group, was young–uner 40-45, a charming, bright, group–engaged in Jewish life, concerned about Israel–that any community in the US would kill for!

And, of course, there was Beijing, the longest stop, with weekend and other family time. You’ve seen the photos of dinner at Susu, Amy and Jonathan’s new Vietnamese restaurant, and at Talking Point, Amy’s new book salon. About 30 of their friends attended the book gig–some we’d met before, others new to us. They have a real community there, and we’re happy to be included when we’re around. I’m not saying there won’t ever be a future High Holiday or Thanksgiving or Passover meltdown when we can’t be together, but this trip gave me a new perspective and acceptance of our global life style. They’re happy, they’re employed (and employing others), and we’re lucky to get to see them as much as we do. (They ARE arriving in San Francisco the day we get home, btw, but it’s never enough!).

And book news: lots of material for the next novel AND forthcoming nonfiction work.

We’ve had one night in Johannesburg for rest and recuperation (tikkun olam means repairing the world; tikkun Linda and Eli means working out, a little nail shop, and repacking (Asia clothes shipped off to Cape Town, our last Africa stop, this morning–hope we see them again).

Stay tuned to safari news! (No time to check for typos–leaving for airport–a true blog, I guess).

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