As a result of Israel and India’s blooming relations, both modern and ancient ties are being reinvigorated.
Spearheading this initiative is New Delhi’s envoy to Israel, Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar, who this week shared with The Jerusalem Post his vision of a unique community using its ancient roots to advance the relationship between the countries of their forefathers.
“The Jewish community in India was very much a full part of India’s rich social and cultural mosaic over the centuries,” Sarkar explained, referring to over two millennia during which Jews, “quite unlike the circumstances in which they lived in other countries,” never suffered from systemic anti-Semitism.
As a result, the nearly 80,000 Jews of Indian ancestry who today reside in Israel, “as proud and loyal citizens,” the ambassador noted, “have very warm feelings in their heart towards India, an affinity and love for a country from which they came and where their ancestors carrying on their religious traditions for many centuries.”
Given this history of tolerance and narrative of coexistence alongside India’s kaleidoscopic religious and ethnic communities, it is no surprise that India would want to further fortify what Sarkar had earlier this month, at the 3rd National Convention of Indian Jews in Ramla, called the “the house of Indian Jewish Unity.”
To lay the groundwork for this effort, India has sought to breathe new life into the sites where its Jewish communities, in states like Kerala, Kolkata and Maharashtra, teamed prior to mass emigration to Israel.
Sarkar cited the renovation of three synagogues in Cochin, Kerala, where the earliest Indian-Jewish community settled, as a sign of good things to come but also stressed the importance of Jewish Indian efforts to have other sites in Mumbai recognized for their Jewish history.
These efforts, however, go beyond renovation of buildings, as Sarkar explained. India has gone so far as to offer Jewish Indians easier access not only to the country itself, but also to its top academic institutions. There, it hopes to add to a historic connection, an intellectual and professional partnership between the rising economic super-power that is India and the start-up nation, Israel.
Addressing his hosts in Ramla, Ambassador Sarkar recognized the potential of such a pact.
“As Jews you are blessed with power of creativity and innovation; as Indians, tolerance and balance runs in your blood. As Jews you are strengthened by your religious traditions; as Indians you have the ability to connect with other people from other faiths and beliefs.”