Kelly Yang (杨燕) can easily be considered a mover and shaker across Beijing's various circles. She co-founded Vericant, an education consulting company that helps North American schools interview and evaluate their Chinese applicants. Vericant is known among Beijing foreigners as a coveted employer, and is internationally recognized for its commitment to honesty. After building up the company, she recently left to run an Ed-Tech incubator in Beijing – helping other educational entrepreneurs grow their startups, and in the meantime is training to be a life coach. She is an active church member of Solomon's Porch, and a frisbee player in her free time.
She also helps running a WeChat account that is of poignant importance today, "IsraelPlan" (以色列计划). She writes posts in Chinese on Mideast issues. It goes without saying that this discourse is regrettably under-explored in this country.
Kelly also writes about her personal travel experience and shares with her friends. She has a public WeChat account called "The Beautiful Life" (美好生活), where she shares her suggestions and insights based on her travelling experiences. So far, she has written about her travel experiences in Pakistan, Kenya, Israel, Qinghai, Wuyuan (Jiangxi Province), Japan, Bali, Hong Kong, Paris, Chicago, Shanxi, Xitang (Zhejiang province).
Let's cut to the chase -- in China, what is missing in common discourse about the mideast and specifically Israel?
The impression of Chinese people on Israel as a country and Jewish people as a nation is very limited. When talking about Israel, all Chinese people know two things: small country and always at war. When talking about Jewish people, two other things come to our mind: they are smart and good at doing business. However, there is a lot more to Israel and Jewish people that Chinese don’t know about. Like Israel’s beautiful scenery and advanced technology, the innovation and openness, the deep culture and long history. Israel is a real melting pot. It is also a startup nation. One will only know how safe Israel is after being there. Our WeChat blog wants to help those who can’t personally be there experience a real taste of Israel.
If you could say something to all Chinese people about Israel (/the Mideast), what would you say?
Israel is a safe and modern country.
Before my first trip to Israel, I thought all of the people there will be praying all the time and people would lock themselves in the house to avoid danger. But I was so wrong. Tel Aviv is like New York, and Jerusalem has a lot in common with Beijing. People there are super modern and open. Not everybody is religious. There are bars open 24 hours. I think sometimes we rely too much on TV to get information, and we also use too much imagination. You just need to get out there to see the real world.
What's your relationship with Israel?
My husband is from Israel. Before I met him, I was already very familiar with the country because there is a lot of information about it on Bible. I’ve been wanting to go and see the place where Jesus lived.
I actually didn’t start the WeChat account. It was started a few years ago by a Jewish person and I joined earlier this year to help run it. I think the mainstream media has misled its audience on this country. We want to bring more objective information to Chinese audiences.
What would you say have been your pinnacle articles?
I wrote an article about learning the Hebrew alphabet, and I think that reflects my attitude the most. In the article I wrote about the “mysterious Hebrew alphabet” and how much more you will learn behind all the letters once you really start learning. There are a lot of similarities between Hebrew and Chinese in this way. To me, Hebrew and Chinese are representatives of their two countries. Both are very deep and mysterious, both had changed a lot over a long history, and yet they have so much in common. The article has got around 6000 views last time I checked.
How has reception of the blog been?
The WeChat account is ran by 6 volunteers and we have 30K followers and readers now. In addition to the articles we are posting, we are also planning to organize some more bilateral events. Like taking our Chinese readers on a tour to Israel and bringing Israeli youth to experience China.
And for your personal WeChat account, why do you write about your travel experiences?
I am a very curious girl. I like doing new things and going to new places. I also learn by seeing and doing. Whenever I go to a new place, I learn so much about local people, culture and food. It works much better than reading on books or watching TV. I decided to write my experiences into wechat posts and share them with my friends not to show off, but to encourage my friends to do what they want to do. I heard so many people telling me they want to go to this and that place, but they don’t have time. I want to show them you can actually go to those places even if you have a busy job.