China had always seemed a world away from our lives in Israel — a distant land with so different a culture, and a language as impenetrable as ours. It wasn’t until I visited 18 months ago that I realized it’s actually a shorter flight from Tel Aviv to Beijing than from Tel Aviv to New York. Now The Times of Israel is pleased to announce that we’re introducing a Chinese edition to reduce that distance still further.

I realized when I was in Beijing that there was a real need for a news site to help facilitate the burgeoning Israeli-Chinese conversation. During my brief visit — organized by the nonprofit organization SIGNAL, which works to advance China-Israel relations — I was told that China had hosted more business leaders and innovators from Israel than from just about any other country during the previous 12 months, and that relationship has soared still further ever since.

Only last week, for instance, some 400 Chinese officials and business leaders came to Israel for what became a “China Week” of interaction, emblemized by the arrival of China’s Deputy Prime Minister Liu Yandong for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We celebrate the success and huge growth of cooperation and connections between Israel and China,” Netanyahu said after their meeting.

The Times of Israel Chinese focuses on the evolving high-tech and innovation areas of the Israeli-Chinese relationship. It covers all aspects of Israeli technology and innovation, highlights trailblazing Israeli start-ups, and details breakthroughs in everything from nanotechnology to agriculture, biomedicine to environmental protection. It reports on the deepening Chinese engagement with Israel in all these areas, and on Israeli business and high-tech partnerships in China. It also dips into Israeli culture and society, giving Chinese readers insights into Israel beyond the spheres of business and high-tech.

We’re delighted to have Jingjing Li, a former editor and reporter for Beijing’s China Economic Net, who now lives in Tel Aviv, on board as the editor of The Times of Israel Chinese. And the reporting of David Shamah, the editor of our Start-Up Israel innovation section, will be integral to the Chinese site. Shamah has specialized for more than a decade in writing about technology and computers, with a special emphasis on Israeli startups, high-tech, biotechnology and environmental solutions.

Appropriately enough, building a site in Chinese required plenty of innovation from our developers, but they’re getting used to pushing the design and coding envelopes across borders, having launched our Times of Israel French (relatively straightforward) and Times of Israel Arabic (a whole different ballgame) in the last few months. As with Arabic, Times of Israel Chinese means a whole new alphabet moving in a whole new direction. But, hey, it gets a little easier each time you do it!

As with all our sites, the news coverage on The Times of Israel Chinese is accompanied by a blog platform, open to anyone and everyone with something of value to say. We invite Chinese writers to sign up as bloggers and spread their word. And sign up, of course, to our free daily newsletter, sent to your inbox with all our top Times of Israel Chinese stories. And as with our other languages, we invite you to be our ambassadors for the Chinese site, spreading the word to Chinese-speaking friends and colleagues.

As they say in not-so-distant Beijing, 欢迎 – huanying — welcome!