CULTURE Israeli publisher fascinated by Chinese stories


Israeli publisher fascinated by Chinese stories

China Daily

08:42, April 29, 2022

(Photo: VCG)

An artistically decorated blackboard with ni hao, which means "hello" in Chinese, written on it, welcomes every guest to Pierre Lavi's home in Jerusalem.

Next to it, on the cabinet, is the certificate and trophy that Lavi received in 2020 as one of the 15 prizewinners of the 14th Special Book Award of China.

As an Israeli publisher, Lavi has devoted himself to translating Chinese books into Hebrew since 2016. The subjects range from China's development and economic policies, to poems, novels and academic textbooks.

Lavi began reading books about China as a boy in the 1970s, when cultural exchanges between China and Israel were scarce. Through the books, he became increasingly fascinated by the Asian country steeped in history.

The lack of China-related books in Hebrew turned out to be a catalyst for his professional exploration in adulthood.

After writing several books, he set up the Lavi Publishing House in 2019 to extend and deepen his connections with China through books.

"Establishing ties with China in this way has fulfilled my childhood dream," he says.

Now in his late 50s, the modern China Lavi is witnessing is completely different from the one he learned about in his younger days.

In 2019, he visited Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province in southwestern China, where he tried the hotpot and saw adorable pandas in person for the first time.

As well as these cultural symbols, Lavi says he was more amazed by the modern infrastructure, convenient public services and rapid development of science and technology, even in a landlocked Chinese city.

It was then that he realized the real imperative of strongly promoting mutual understanding between peoples of the two countries.

"Culture, especially books, is an important bridge between people. You may not be able to speak each other's language or understand each other's culture, but reading can bridge this gap," Lavi says.

Apart from translating Chinese books into Hebrew, Lavi has also co-authored two books with his daughter, Shira Wants a Rock From the Moon and Shira Wants to Win the Nobel Prize, both of which were published in Chinese by China's Commercial Press.

Given the distance between China and the Middle East, Lavi points out the importance of reducing misunderstandings between peoples from both sides. "You can't know each other perfectly, nor can you be exactly the same, but you can get a lot of inspiration by reading between the lines."

He says he hopes to cooperate with more Chinese partners and mobilize more talented Chinese-Hebrew translators to press ahead with cultural exchanges.

He is facilitating the building of a Chinese cultural library and developing a TV show, in which he will interview Israelis and ask them to introduce Israeli culture and tourism to a Chinese audience.

He adds that, from a historical perspective, the Chinese and Jews share many similarities, as they have both suffered much, but are full of wisdom.

"In many respects, Chinese wisdom is cherished by us. When I published a Chinese book for the first time, I deeply held this belief," he says.

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