Raz Gal Or (right) and Brian O'Shea in a video recording the process of collecting medical supplies in Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 25 (COURTESY PHOTO)
When Raz Gal Or was waiting at the Beijing Capital International Airport to board a flight to Tel Aviv ahead of the Spring Festival, both the 26-year-old entrepreneur and his friend Brian O'Shea were struck by the number of people wearing masks in the airport. Having been preoccupied with their businesses, they were not aware that an epidemic was spreading in Wuhan, Hubei Province in central China.
Several days later, they collected 229 boxes of medical supplies in Israel in a day, and donated them to Huanggang, east Hubei, on February 9 to assist the fight against the epidemic.
The whole donation process of 384 hours, is recorded in a book, China, We Got Your Back, published in Chinese and English by New Star Press, a Beijing-based publishing house under the China International Publishing Group. The book, which is the first on the subject of fighting against the novel coronavirus, also shows the selfless assistance to Hubei and cooperation between young Israeli and Chinese entrepreneurs.
Quick assistance After arriving in Tel Aviv, Gal Or and O'Shea, from Argentina, were concerned about the situation in China. The spike in the number of patients in Wuhan and the reported shortage of medical equipment led them decide to collect surgical masks for Chinese hospitals in need.
"My dad always tells me that the Chinese helped us Jews a lot in history," said Gal Or, believing it was time to repay the kindness.
Referring to himself as a "Foreigner in China 2.0," Gal Or is a famous foreigner Internet star in China.
The first-born of a successful Israeli entrepreneur who has business in China, Gal Or has lived in Beijing for about 12 years. In 2014, he became the first Israeli undergraduate student at Peking University.
He is co-founder of YChina, also known as the Foreigner Research Institute, a business development company specializing in China. Uploading videos that share thoughts of the young generation of foreigners in China, YChina attracted millions of fans after releasingits first video in January 2017.
On January 25, Gal Or and O'Shea went to pharmacies in Tel Aviv to buy face masks but found they only had a couple of thousands in stock, which was far off their goal. They turned to Gal Or's father for help.
Raz Gal Or's father Amir Gal Or is president of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce in China. In 2017, Amir Gal Or won the Friendship Award, which is the highest award that the Chinese Government issues to foreigners for their outstanding contribution during China's development.
"China helped the Israeli people so many times in history, especially in World War II," Amir Gal Or said, "So it's only natural that we should do everything possible. There is no question about that, and it should be done again, again and again."
He invited his son to speak at a meeting of the chamber in Tel Aviv that was attended by several officials from medical institutions.
The young Gal Or's donation proposal received echoes at the meeting.
"Face masks, medical equipment, everything that we can assist, we will do that," said Professor Roni Gamzo, CEO of Tel Aviv Medical Hospital.
Tslil Klainman from the chamber said, "We remember... how China helped Israelis in times of crises. And we really want to be there now for China."
The Sheba Medical Center, one of the top 10 medical centers in Israel, alone donated 30,000 masks and helped them get more by connecting them with a supplier.
The duo then talked with Kodan Medicam, a medical supplier in Jerusalem serving only major hospitals and the army, which donated 50,000 pairs of medical gloves.
New Star Press staff check the proofs at their printing press in Beijing (COURTESY PHOTO)
Against the clock
Within 24 hour, the two young men had also collected over 100,000 surgical face masks, 50,000 pairs of medical gloves and 7,000 protective suits.
"In this more and more interconnected and globalized world, everybody should not just be concerned about what is happening in the world around us, but also what is happening in the distance," Raz Gal Or said.
But the sense of achievement was short-lived as new challenges emerged. How to send 229 boxes, weighing more than 1 ton, to China?
According to a new policy announced by the Chinese Government, foreign donations can be shipped directly to the recipient hospitals. So the team also began to go through information available online about hospitals to assess which one needed supplies most. Finally, they chose one in Huanggang, a city in east Hubei Province.
The team then contacted Cainiao Guoguo, the global parcel tracking platform of Alibaba Group, to handle the logistics. But their progress slowed down again. Following the World Health Organization's announcement on January 30 that the epidemic was a public health emergency of international concern, many countries decided to dramatically decrease or cancel flights to China.
Eventually, Cainiao located an Israeli shipping company that was willing to provide free shipping. The boxes were ready, with all the necessary documentation done, and finally set sail from Tel Aviv on February 1. The ship passed through Moscow and arrived in the city of Guangzhou in south China four days later. The hospital received the supplies on February 9.
"It seemed like the whole world was going against us, but we still managed to get to this point," Raz Gal Or said in relief, "Hang in there guys, we are behind you."
Covers of the Chinese and English versions of the book China, We Got Your Back published by New Star Press, which describes the process of assembling the medical supplies to be sent to China (COURTESY PHOTO)
A unique memory
Though what was to be a holiday trip turned out to be something else, the two friends created unique memories. They posted the videos on social media and video-sharing websites, which won tremendous appreciation on the Internet.
New Star Press was looking for heart-warming stories during the period of the epidemic. Ding Ning, a senior planner with the publishing house, was keen on tales of people working together for a common goal, putting race and other differences aside. Raz Gal Or's initiative was proof that each individual can contribute something as long as people get started.
"This faith is very important for people fighting the virus, which will lead us out of all difficulties," Ding told Beijing Review.
When she approached YChina with the book proposal, they hesitated at first since the initiative was not meant to generate publicity or sell books. But Ding persuaded them that it was not her intention either. The aim was to give readers a warm feeling during a challenging period and pay tribute to the deep friendship between Israelis and Chinese.
China, We Got Your Back also shows the sense of responsibility and strength of the post-1990s generation, who are shouldering their responsibility to build a better world and play a bigger role in the future.
New Star Press completed the Chinese and English versions in eight days. A Hebrew edition of the book in collaboration with Israeli publishing houses is on the anvil.
"We plan to donate the profits generated from the book to assist medical students in Hubei," Ding said, "That is our way of assisting the fight against the epidemic."
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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