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Taipei donates two dragon boats to Israel's Haifa City

TAIPEI -- The Taipei City Government has donated two traditional dragon boats to the Israeli city of Haifa, in an effort to promote cultural and sports exchanges between the two cities, it said yesterday.

The donation of the dragon boats came after a team from Haifa traveled to Taiwan last June to participate in the annual Taipei International Dragon Boat Championship.

The boats arrived in Haifa, a port city in northern Israel, in late January, said the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei.

Israel's representative to Taiwan, Simona Halperin, also called on Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) that day to express gratitude for the donation of the two boats.

Hau invited Israel to send a team to participate in this year's dragon boat race in Taipei. “Now you have two boats to practice with,” he pointed out.

Halperin gave a positive reply and said she believes the Israeli team will turn in a better performance this year as they now have authentic dragon boats to practice with.

The paddlers in Haifa were also happy to receive the boats, according to Halperin.

Both Hau and Halperin also expressed hope for further cultural and sports exchanges between Taipei and Israel.

Halperin, who has participated in a previous dragon boat race, said the activity to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival is an important part of the tradition.

“It's about teamwork and synchronization,” she said.

This year's Taipei International Dragon Boat Championship is slated for May 31-June 2, the Taipei City Government said.

The Dragon Boat Festival is one of three major festivals in Taiwan. It takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, and is a public holiday in Taiwan.

During that period of time, dragon boat races are held around Taiwan to commemorate Qu Yuan (屈原), a Chinese poet and minister in the state of Chu (楚) during the Warring States Period (戰國時期) more than 2,000 years ago.

When the state of Qin (秦) conquered Chu, the poet committed suicide in despair. He drowned himself in a river and legend has it that a crowd gathered and beat the water with paddles to keep fish from eating Qu's body — the origin of today's dragon boat races.

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