Journal Article

Finding Jesus in the Holy Land and Taking Him to China: Chinese Temporary Migrant Workers in Israel Converting to Evangelical Christianity*

Barak Kalir

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 70, issue 2, pages 130-156
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online May 2009 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srp027
Finding Jesus in the Holy Land and Taking Him to China: Chinese Temporary Migrant Workers in Israel Converting to Evangelical Christianity*

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The article describes and probes the conversion of Chinese temporary migrant workers in Israel to evangelical Christianity. Since 1995 thousands of Chinese workers have been recruited, mainly from villages across Fujian, for construction work in Israel. In 1998 an evangelical church was established in Tel Aviv, and its personnel evangelize with considerable success among Chinese workers. The work visa of Chinese workers in Israel is limited to a maximum of five years. Consequently, their church membership is limited in duration, and the church plays no role in the facilitation of migrants' settlement. The constricted role of the church forcefully raises the question of why Chinese workers convert to Christianity. This article draws attention to the impact of conversion on the life of Chinese workers upon their return to China. The article argues that a conversion to Christianity in Israel permits Chinese temporary migrants to accumulate cultural, symbolic, and social capital, which can be effectively deployed in China.

Keywords: religious conversion; Chinese migrants; Christianity; Israel; China; modernity

Journal Article.  12363 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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