India looking to bring Jews of Indian origin on heritage tours

credits/photos : EMMANUEL DYAN/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Synagogue Madhupura in Ahmedabad, India

India’s ambassador to Israel has announced a plan that intends to bring Jews of Indian origin to come visit the vast Asian country as part of Jewish heritage tours.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported on Sunday that Jaideep Sarkar gave details of the plan while speaking to 4,200 people who gathered for the Third National Convention of Indian Jews in central Israel last Thursday.

“We want to tell the world proudly about the rich Jewish life in India with your efforts we are working to preserve the Jewish heritage in India. We hope to have a package tour to Jewish heritage sites in Mumbai and elsewhere by early next year,” Sarkar said, according to PTI.

“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 so it is vitally important that you pass on these precious qualities and values to your children and grandchildren,” Sarkar said.

“The important thing is to continue what you began so well – and pass on the spirit and idea behind the convention to the next generation. The house of Indian Jewish unity has a strong foundation. Now we have to build upon it,” PTI quoted Sarkar as saying.

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According to the report, synagogues in Paravoor and Chennamangalam in the southern state of Kerala were recently renovated and could become major attractions for the estimated 25,000 Cochini Jews in Israel.

There are about 85,000 Jews of Indian origin living in Israel from four different communities, the PTI reported. These communities include the Bene Israel from the Maharashtra region, Cochini Jews from Kerala, Baghdadis from the Kolkata area and Bnei Menashe from Manipur and Mizoram.

The announcement comes as relations between India and Israel have warmed over the past few months. This was reinforced last month when a senior Indian Foreign Ministry delegation visited Jerusalem.

The delegation, which was headed by top bureaucrat Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa, was in Israel for “strategic dialogue” on various issues.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said at the time that “this dialogue expresses the special relationship that developed” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. “At the heart of the dialogue stand a number of bilateral topics, with an emphasis on diplomatic, economic and development issues,” it added.

According to the statement, Wadhwa met with Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold to discuss ways to remove “economic barriers” and improve tourism between the two countries, along with establishing a “Center of Excellence in Agriculture.”

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