The flow of tourists to India reached new heights last month when the Israeli Embassy was forced to appoint a special delegate for backpacker affairs. On Sunday, a group of 30 young Israelis are set to visit the land of spices for a whole new purpose - documenting Jewish communities.
The group, sponsored by the Zalman Shazar Center and The Avi-Chai Foundation, will send the university students to Mumbai for three weeks to study that community. "Mumbai has one of the largest communities on the Asian subcontinent and we barely know anything about it," said program director Hana Holland.
"This is an educational project. We are taking Israelis from different backgrounds and getting them to really question what it really means to be a Jew in light of these various Jewish communities," said Holland.
The project has been sending students to cities in Europe for six years. But this is the first time the group has gone further afield. Students who are chosen to participate on the trip usually major in anthropology, language, archeology, or other social sciences.
"Many Israelis pass through on their way to one place or another," said Holland. "If they wind up at one of the synagogues it is an afterthought. This group will really live and study this community."