Chinese olim have Golani Brigade in their sights

Itamar Eichner


Dec 11, 2014

From left to right: Gideon, Yonatan and Moshe (Photo: Eran Barzilai)

Three members of the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng who made aliya five years ago are about to enlist in the IDF, and all three want to join the fabled combat unit.

All three were born in China, in the ancient Jewish community in Kaifeng. They immigrated to Israel some five years ago and recently completed their conversion and naturalization processes. In two weeks, they'll report to the Israel Defense Forces' Induction Center in Tel Hashomer and join the army. Despite their relatively advanced age (all three are 25 years old), they are dreaming of enlisting in the Golani Brigade.

The three – Moshe Li, Gideon Fan and Yonatan Xue – are the first Jews from the Kaifeng community to enlist in the IDF.

They immigrated to Israel in 2009 with the help of Shavei Israel, an organization that reaches out to descendants of Jews around the world in an effort to strengthen their connection with Israel, and completed their conversion and naturalization processes last year. The Kaifeng community numbers around 1,000 individuals who, despite much assimilation, still maintain ties to Judaism.

Recent years have seen a fascinating awakening among the descendants of the Kaifeng Jewish community, and especially among the youth, who are seeking their roots and identity. Some are undergoing conversion and returning to Judaism; and there are those, too, who wish to immigrate to Israel.

The three will now try to fulfill another dream on their way to becoming rank-and-file Israelis – to join the Golani.

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