Taiwanese Christian to Religious Jew in Samaria

Chance encounter with French Jew on Taiwan taxi ride led Batsheva to Paris, lottery ticket led to conversion, then on to Eli in Samaria.

Ari Yashar ,

Taiwanese tourist eats Jewish food in Paris (illustration)
Taiwanese tourist eats Jewish food in Paris (illustration)
Serge Attal/Flash 90

Batsheva Askuli, a 40-year-old mother of two who lives in the community of Eli in Samaria, told Walla! on Wednesday her extraordinary life story.

She recalled how she grew up as a Christian in Taiwan until a chance encounter at the age of 22 at a local computer expo with David, a French Jew from Paris aged 28.

Describing her fateful meeting with her future husband, she noted he was only in Taiwan for five days. On the way home from the exhibit, the two were both looking for a taxi and decided to split a cab together.

"He told me on the way that he was looking to buy kosher food. I had no idea what that was, I tried to understand but couldn't really. We went together to the supermarket to buy vegetables and that's how we first met," she recalled.

He would soon come to visit Taiwan every few months to see her.

"We really wanted to advance the relationship. I knew that would have a price and I would need to move to live in Paris. He asked if I would agree to move to see if we would be able to build our lives together. I agreed, but I was so stupid and afraid of the future that I demanded one condition: that he buy me an open return ticket."

Batsheva never used the ticket, as she started learning French at a local university and married David a year later.

Lottery ticket to Judaism

Her embrace of Judiasm began with the birth of her son, which was accompanied by her winning a local lottery for 3,000 francs (around $3,200).

"It came from Heaven. It was exactly what we needed for our first son have a brit milah (circumcision)," she said. "We had a friend who knew that my husband was Jewish and I was Christian and he explained that we should have the brit. Although it was weird for me, we decided to do it."

As her son neared the age of three and they found a school for him, Batsheva decided to convert and contacted the organization tasked with Jewish conversions in France.

"I contacted them for the first time and they refused to receive my request," she recalled. "It was really difficult, I was very sad. I didn't understand how people could refuse a child who wants to return again to their Father? If G-d loves His children, how do they have the right to do that?"

A year-and-a-half later, her request was accepted and she began the conversion process, which took a total of nine long years, during which time they lived according to Jewish law. She remarked how the process was important not just for herself, but to clarify the Jewish status of her children.

No "Jewish museum"

However, she recalls a less than warm welcome from the Jewish community in Paris, noting, "I opened a kosher Chinese restaurant, lots of Jewish customers would come in and ask about the kashrut certificate because it didn't look like a place run by Jews to them because the owner didn't look like a Jew. In France either you're a Moroccan [Jew], or from Algeria, or Ashkenazi."

Eventually they realized France "wasn't the place to raise our children" and that they didn't want their children to grow up with "the Torah being something in a museum," leading them to move to Israel.

They came to visit Israel and fell in love with Eli - four months later they moved to the town.

"The neighbors really helped, they opened their doors, took care of the kids and made us feel that we are part of them," she said.

Today their older son Natan is 14 and studies at the Jerusalem College of Technology (Mechon Lev) in Jerusalem, while their younger son Yoram is 11 and studies in Shiloh, in addition to his studies at a school for the gifted in Ofra. 

"After I studied all the history of Israel, I think that Israel is very rich. Not only in money, but in culture. It isn't just a strong country, it has a very large heart."