Hong Kong trip 'an eye-opener'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am

Hong Kong's melting pot of cultures has fascinated two Israeli exchange students in town for a short visit.

Andra Levi, 18, and Roi Adar, 17, were in the SAR as part of an Israeli Government cultural exchange programme which also took them to Taipei.

'It's stimulating to be at a place where East meets West and you can talk to people from the United States, Europe and Asia,' said Andra.

The Grade 12 students were awestruck by the impressive waterfront skyline of skyscrapers and other high-rise buildings mushrooming over Hong Kong.

'The tallest building in Israel is about 15 storeys, but here most buildings are more than 20 storeys high,' Andra said.

Roi also marvelled at the high-rise schools which are often six storeys tall. Before the trip, Andra said she expected the Chinese to be conservative and shy. But their visit to Pui Kiu Middle School in North Point proved her wrong as 'students kept smiling at me'.

'We hope to help people have a better understanding of our country and at the same time learn about their culture,' Roi said.

One marked difference is between schools in Israel and Hong Kong.

Israeli students are allowed to choose the subjects they like and they do not have to wear a school uniform.

Andra said the world media projected Israel as a place of conflict and war.

'This is not true. Israel is a beautiful and peaceful country with different landscapes and mixed races,' she said.

'Israelis are outgoing and warm, people easily talk to each other, even with strangers.

'Every country has its problems and we are trying to handle ours as best we can,' Roi said. After completing Grade 12, the students will join the Israeli army to do their compulsory military service.

'Both men and women have to serve in the army,' Andra said.

She said the nine-month stint in the army would sharpen her defensive instincts, while for Roi it would be a 'chance to make new friends'.

'People of different races are treated equally in the army and follow the same regulations,' Roi said.