TEL AVIV, Israel — Yue Ting finally went “home” to Israel this week.
She had been looking forward to the day for years — where she comes from there are no synagogues or rabbis.
“Our ancestors are Jews … I have to be here,” said Yue, a 25-year-old primary school teacher who intends to become an Israeli citizen along with four other women from her hometown of Kaifeng in Hunan province.
Growing up in China, Yue Ting always thought she was Jewish but she never understood quite what that meant.
“As a child my parents and people around me always called me ‘Jewish girl,'” Yue told NBC News. “I didn’t understand the meaning of Jewish at that time.”
Yue and the four other women traveling with her are among some 1,000 traceable descendants of the Jewish community in Kaifeng, once the imperial capital of the Chinese Song dynasty. The Kaifeng’s Jewish population was established by travelling merchants from the Middle East and Persia as early as the 7th century and once numbered as many as 5,000.