“I will certainly salute the Indian Prime Minister at the reception on the 5th of July in Tel Aviv the moment I meet him,” says Indian born Israeli national Ivan Samuel who is the owner and president of Gamezones.co.il, an angel investor. He will be attending the state reception for the PM in Tel Aviv. For him and the entire Indian Jewish community based in Israel, the visit of the first ever Indian PM to Israel means more than just business. It is about recognising the silent but consistent support that Israel has provided India, whether it was during the Bhuj earthquake, (a baby born then at the Israel mobile medical camp was named `Israeli’) or in the field of science, technology, agriculture, medicine, diamond trading and most certainly Defence.
According to Samuel, buses are being orgainsed from around 25 regions of Israel with a sizable Indian Jewish population for the welcome reception in Tel Aviv. The sponsors also belong to the Indian Gujarati diamond community based in Israel. For them it’s like a mini festival. “You can never take India out of me,” says Ivan who immigrated to Israel in 1986 at the age of 26.
The Indian value system of humility and respect is what he passes on to his three `Sabra’ (Israeli born) children. They love India for it’s spirit and its mystic appeal. India is also one of the most popular tourist destination for the Israeli backpackers. Infact, regions in the North of India, have hoardings and food menus written in Hebrew. The locals in the tourism and hospitality business in Kulu Manali, Dharmasala, parts of Rajasthan and of course Goa, speak the Hebrew language fluently.
Abraham Caustill, a member of the Bagdadi community left India for Israel in 1952, wherein he witnessed the spirit of nation building during his early years in Israel. From living on rice water and boil eggs to literally converting the desert into agricultural land, he remembers his early days in Israel with fondness. However it is the days he spent in the Byculla area of Mumbai, that takes him on a real nostalgic trip. For him and many other Indian Jews, India is forever their motherland and Israel their father land. “India is the only country in the world that accepted the Jews wholeheartedly, anti-Semitic feels being unheard off.”
Elizabeth Assor left India when she was just six years of age, but speaks fluent Hindi. All thanks to her mother Florrie Shapurker who ensured her children learn and speak the national language of India, though she migrated in the year 1968. They are thrilled to learn that the PM of India is finally coming to Israel.
For Ivan who stepped into Israel from India with only dollar 350 in hand, in 1986 and steadily built his business from imports to now in the high tech space, it would be interesting to explore the `Make in India’ initiative. He is quite confident that the PM will speak about some positive reforms to encourage trade and dialogue between the two countries and ancient civilizations, who received their independence a year apart from each other.
Leora Micah Joseph, former staff at the Israeli Consulate office in Mumbai, has some interesting observations to share. She states that, “Before 1992, though there were no full diplomatic ties, there were many ongoing programmes of cooperation between the two nations, albeit on a low level. Israel has a development programme for professionals from developing countries called MASHAV. India was one of the countries whose professionals were invited to train in Israel in varied fields such as Medicine, Agriculture, Social Work, Education as well as programmes targeted for Trade Unions. In fact the late Appasaheb Pawar – brother of Sharad Pawar too had been to Israel, way before the diplomatic ties were established. She further shares that, the Labour Union in Israel had a close relationship with Indian labour organizations and trade unions. Many trade union leaders such as the late Somnath Dube, the late Sharad Rao as well as the late George Fernandes – all had been to Israel at a time when India and Israel did not have formal relations, (way before 1992) “. However, after 1992, the relations between Israel and India flourished. Business / trade between the two countries jumped up tremendously in a very short time. Israeli companies like Netafim came to India. The Israeli airline ELAL began operations in December 1993. This made life of the Indian Jews so much easier as we now for the first time in decades were able to fly directly to Israel. After a while Air India too started flying, and it made life for all Indians so much easier as more and more of us could fly to Israel and it kept the prices competitive. It was a huge blow to Indians and Indian Jews when Air India stopped direct flights to Israel. But, she concludes by saying, “We Indian Jews are proud of your Indian origin and I am positive that this will lead to further strengthening of relationships between the land of Namaste and Shalom.”