Indian Jews: The Forgotten Diaspora

Which country will not boast of its pervasive Diaspora around the world? Strong bonds with Diaspora always strengthen a nation’s ability to exert diplomatic pressure over rest of the world, just as Israel did it beautifully, by getting hold of Jewish votes in United States.

Yes, there is only one nation on the Earth which denies its allegiance with people of its own origin- India.

India hasn’t been as reluctant in recognizing Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jain, and Buddhists of Indian origin living all across the world, as it has been for acknowledging more than 80 thousand Indian Jews living in Israel since decades.

Bene Israel
Bene Israel

India not only denied establishing diplomatic relations with Jewish state, but cut off allegiance with thousands of Indian Jews, who migrated there during 1950s-60s, after Israel opened its citizenship (Aliyah) to all Jews around the world.

Millions of Jews migrated from Europe, North and South America, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq and India to land of three religions as it opened its border for them wholeheartedly after independence in 1948.

Most of Indian Jews lived in Cochin and Mumbai for more than thousand years since there exodus began 2000 years ago first by Christian crusaders, then Islam.

Wherever they fled for asylum around the globe, curse of anti-Semitism didn’t stop them following for millennia, and the place where Jews found actual solace, where they never faced a single instant of anti-Semitism till to date is none other than India.

Major groups of Indian Jews, which comes under category of Sephadi Jews, include Cochin Jews, Bene Israel, Jews of Goa and Baghdadi Jews.

Cochin Jews
Cochin Jews

Cochin Jews (Spanish, Portuguese, Paradesi and British Jews) settled in Kerala as merchants and traders, whereas Chennai Jews arrived at Madras during 16th century following their expulsion from Liberia.

Jews of Goa include Portuguese Jews who fled to Portuguese Goa after the commencement of the Inquisition in Portugal.

The Jews arrived from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan around 250 years ago settled in Surat, were called Baghdadi Jews.

Meanwhile, Bene Israel lived in Karachi, Sindh and Punjab region of undivided India. Many of them moved to Mumbai following partition, while others to Israel after 1948.

After 1948, Indian Jews, settled in different parts of Israel, flourished and assimilate with migrants of other nationalities. Most of them settled in Katamon in Jerusalem, Beersheba, Ramla, Dimona, and Yeruham.

Indian food, language, art, and culture, despite of huge cultural amalgamation, did find recognition in the land of migrants.

It has been India’s too much infatuation for Arab countries and Indian Muslims, that no Indian administration, politician or social group ever tried to connect or communicate with Jews with Indian blood.

Indian Jews
Indian Jews

Indian National Congress, known as hardcore pro-Arab/Muslim Party, deliberately didn’t extend any relations with Jewish country to safeguard their innate vote bank, whereas some efforts had been initiated by Hindu Nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party between 1998 and 2003 under Atal Bihari Yajpayee government.

Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, tried to further its affection for Israel and Jews since Israel’s Independence, but could not make it as political agenda, due its insignificancy in Indian scenario.

Present government of Bhartiya Janata Party, backed by Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as its ideological backbone, again in a mood to romance Hindu-Jewish unity, as they there common enemy.

With Modi’s visit to Jewish state (First by an Indian Prime Minister) on 4th and 5th July, Indian Jews in Israel and India hopes for reviving their historic connection with their country of origin.

On 5th July, Modi is going to address more than 10,000 Indian Jews in Tel Aviv, to spark a new Indo-Israel and Hindu-Jews relations.

About the Author
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, I am a journalist, writer and blogger, worked for leading newspapers and news channels including The Hitavada, DD News in India for many years.
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