In India, Coexistence Won't Be Murdered (Extract)

Extract from a story in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. In the Islamic terrorist outrage in Mumbai, Jews were once again singled out for attack. Although the terrorists slaughtered Indians and tourists indiscriminately, the local Chabad House was the only target which had a particular religious or national character. An unrecognized dimension of the tragedy, however, is that this happened in a country which has been uniquely free of anti-Semitism. While in the West there is tension between Jewish and Islamic communities based mainly on differences over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in India Jews and Muslims have been living together intimately and harmoniously for many hundreds of years. Indeed, a synagogue in Mumbai is called a masjid - derived from the Arabic for mosque - which in the local dialect is a word that symbolizes harmony. The Muslim terrorists who carried out the attacks, who may or may not have been Indians, were acting in total opposition to this tradition when they attacked Chabad House and killed its Jewish inhabitants. At its peak the Jewish community in India numbered 100,000, but since 1948, the majority have left for Israel. A sizable minority also emigrated to America, Canada, the U.K. and Australia, leaving only about 6,000 Jews in India today, while there are over 150 million Muslims. Historically, Indian Jews and Muslims consciously chose to live in the same neighborhoods, because in terms of religious practice they have more in common with each other than with Hindus. Today, several of Mumbai's operational synagogues happily abide in the heart of religiously conservative Muslim areas, where minarets abound. There has been only nominal security at Indian Jewish buildings, certainly when compared to the West. Until November 26, Mumbai, where the majority of Indian Jews live, was a place where it was totally safe to be a Jew. The interrelationship between Jews and Muslims in Mumbai and India is hard for Westerners to comprehend because it is so different from their experience. Consider the following: The majority of the students in the Jewish Magen David school are Muslims who start their day reciting the Mizmor L'David prayer in Hebrew; the caretaker of Mumbai's grand Magen David synagogue is a Muslim; and when the Jewish synagogue in the outer Mumbai suburb of Panvel was recently heavily damaged by monsoon rains, the local Muslim community raised the funds to repair it. Associate Professor Danny Ben-Moshe of Victoria University is making a documentary in Mumbai called "Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Jews and Bollywood" and Ralphy Jhirad is the Managing Trustee of Mumbai's Bene Israel Heritage Centre. Extract from a story in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.