by Xinhua writers Chen Wenxian, Du Zhen
JERUSALEM, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) — A modern Boeing Dreamliner 787 airplane landed on the Ben-Gurion International Airport of Tel Aviv on Thursday after 10-hour non-stop flight from Guangzhou, capital city of South China’s Guangdong Province.
The success of the maiden flight means that China’s Hainan Airlines opened its third direct air route linking China and Israel. Three direct return flights per week between the two cities will be provided for passengers.
The formal opening of the new air route was a really important step to strengthen the connection and relationship between China and Israel, Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said at the opening ceremony of the maiden flight at the airport.
As early as in April 2016, Hainan Airlines opened the Beijing-Tel Aviv direct air route, its first direct air route between China and Israel. Later in September 2017, it launched the second direct air route, from Shanghai to Tel Aviv.
Levin was confident that more Chinese would visit Israel and more Israelis would fly to China with the opening of the new air route, while expecting broader tourism cooperation between the two countries.
With the opening of the new route, a total of 10 weekly direct flights between China and Israel are available. For the Beijing-Tel Aviv flights, about one third of the passengers are Israelis.
The direct flights opened by Hainan Airlines in recent two years have contributed to the notable growth of the people-to-people exchanges between China and Israel, said Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhan Yongxin at the ceremony.
An aviation network between China and Israel’s economic and innovation centers has taken shape, noted Zhan.
According to the Chinese ambassador, about 130,000 Chinese people visited Israel in 2017, registering a year-on-year increase of 40 percent. On the Israeli side, about 53,000 Israelis travelled to China in 2017, demonstrating an equally strong momentum.
On the bilateral economic and trade ties, the trade volume between the two countries witnessed a year-on-year increase of 15.6 percent to 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2017.
In the first half of this year, the trade volume gained a year-on-year growth of 21.6 percent, with China’s imports from Israel surging 47.2 percent.
As China deepens its reform and widens its opening-up, both China and Israel now face more cooperation opportunities, said Zhan, adding that the relations between China and Israel will have a better year in 2018 and bring more benefits to people of the two countries.
The opening of the new direct air route from China to Israel was very good to the relations in the sectors of tourism, economy and business between the two countries, said Israeli Minister of Transportation Yisael Katz in an interview with Xinhua.
With the official opening of the Guangzhou-Tel Aviv route, Hainan Airlines has become the carrier with the most routes between China and Israel, offering comprehensive coverage of North China, East China and South China, said Chen Ming, vice board chairman of Hainan Airlines Holding Co., Ltd.
The establishment of this metaphorical bridge in the sky will help the two countries share the prosperity brought by the Belt and Road Initiative, while promoting the continuous development of China-Israel relations, noted Chen.
The initiative, proposed by China in 2013, refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aiming at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes to seek common development and prosperity.