Jatinder Yakhmi

She loved Israel…

Testing the highly salty waters during a trip to the Dead Sea in 2009. Photo courtesy, author.
Testing the highly salty waters during a trip to the Dead Sea in 2009. Photo courtesy, author.

Having accompanied me on my academic visits to several countries, my wife, Mrs. Amar Upasana Yakhmi had no doubt that next to her own country, she liked Israel best. She enjoyed her four trips to Israel immensely, the last one in 2015. Despite our advancing age, she was hopeful to visit Israel, just once again. Unfortunately, she died of a cardiac arrest in Mumbai on Oct. 8, 2022, at age 74.

My first visit to Israel was for two months in April-May 2009. I was a visiting Professor under the Lady Davis Fellowship scheme at Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, located at Haifa. My wife, Mrs. Amar Upasana Yakhmi, also accompanied me. First ten days of this trip were spent by us as the guests of the Weizmann Institute of Science, at Rehovot, and the remaining period at the Technion, Haifa.

Subsequently, there were three more visits by us to Israel, lasting 20 days to one month each, in 2010, 2013 and 2015, all hosted by the Weizmann Institute. One thing that stood out during these visits was that Upasana liked Israel immensely. Even though she had visited several countries like France, UK, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Japan, Dubai and Singapore with me, either before or after these visits to Israel, she had no hesitation in stating that she had the best of times in Israel.

Upasana at the campus of Technion in Haifa in 2009. Photo by author.
Upasana standing across the entry gate to Weizmann Institute in 2009. Photo by author

I have often wondered what were the things that fascinated Upasana in a small country like Israel, which has a population of half of Mumbai city, where we live. I believe these were as stated below:


Upasana liked the ambience of the places that we stayed at, or visited in Israel. There were no crowds, unlike we have in Mumbai city. Flower plants beckoned us along pavements. Walking around was so relaxing.

Upasana walking on a pavement in Haifa after some shopping in 2009. Israel uses plastic tubing (not seen clearly here) for drip irrigation to save water. Photo by author.
Our apartment on Technion campus in Haifa in 2009. Photo by author.

Upasana loved the location of our apartment, shown above, because the city bus stopped just a few meters down the slope, and so she could watch young research students boarding or alighting, and would even communicate with them. Drip-agriculture has been adopted in the whole of Israel, as shown by the long plastic tubing in front of our apartment, and it was fun for Upasana to turn the water ON, and OFF, once done.

We were nostalgic about Haifa and about this apartment where we lived for 50 days. On a  visit to Haifa during our 2013 trip to Weizmann, we were shocked to see that this dream apartment of ours no longer existed. It had been demolished to make way for construction of some more hostels for students.

Upasana liked to walk around the very green campus of Weizmann Institute. Photo by author, 2013

On-campus ambience was good, and relaxing. Families could move about in the lawns of the institutes. Quite often a family or two, with children could be seen having a picnic-like lunch there. Upasana, too, brought packed lunch for both of us on two occasions, which we shared under the cool shades of trees at Weizmann campus.

Great fun! Upasana plucked some pomegranates near our apartment at Weizmann campus in 2010. Photo by author.
Relaxing at a kids park near our apartment at Weizmann campus, in 2010. Photo by author.


At heart, Upasana was a home-maker. She was impressed to find that the apartments allotted to us, whether at Reisfeld Residence, American House complex, or Europe House complex at Rehovot; or at Technion campus in Haifa, or at Belgium Guest House at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, were all very well-furnished and comfortable.

Kitchens at all these apartments were also well-equipped with all gadgets for cooking, at hand. A graduate in Home Science from Lady Irwin College, Delhi, a prestigious institution, Upasana had a penchant for cooking and was delighted to indulge in that during our trips to Israel.

Upasana in the kitchen at our apartment during our trip to Weizmann Institute in 2010. Photo by author.

Cultural Similarities

Culturally, Israel is close to India. It can be seen when one goes to the markets, or on a bus-ride, or to ancient monuments. In fact, just after finishing school and military service, several young Israeli boys/girls are known to make vacation trips to India to visit Uttarakhand, Varanasi, etc. to learn about India, Hinduism and the ancient culture of India, a country they admire.

Ease of Communication while shopping, etc.

Most people in Israel can and do speak English language. Upasana had fun going for shopping in Israel.

Upasana entering a store in a popular mall at Haifa, for shopping, in 2009. Photo by author

Most Indian groceries and vegetables could be bought in Israel. Upasana felt satisfied that her kind of vegetable dishes could be made while staying in Israel. She went alone, often for purchase of grocery items, when I was at the labs.

Upasana at her shopping round at her favorite supermarket in Rehovot in 2015. Photo by author.
During her shopping visit in 2015 shown in the previous photograph, I too, was present, and we had fun when I insisted on stamping the receipts before she could take out her trolley from the cash counter of the supermarket. The owner watching us is amused. He had become friendly over our several such trips to his shop. Photo Courtesy: author.

We had very hospitable hosts who made us feel at home, and took us out for dinners or sightseeing tours. That included visits to key monuments in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa and Nazareth, and a visit to the Dead Sea.


Upasana admiring a long shot of the Bahai Temple and its magnificent terraced gardens, before climbing down the steps, all the way. Photo clicked by author on May 11, 2009.

Ancient History

Upasana standing in front of the historic Mary’s Well at Nazareth in 2009. Photo by author.

Our host from Hebrew University, Prof. Israel Felner, took us on a whirlwind one-day tour of several historic monuments and relics of Jerusalem.

Looking pensive before exiting the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem in 2009. Photo by author
Here Upasana is standing on the First Temple Wall, marked by dark tiles under her feet, that had come to light a few years earlier after excavation. Photo by author on May 3, 2009.


Before moving to the West Wall, Upasana looks with reverence at the menorah, a symbol of Judaism since ancient times. The seven-branched golden candelabrum was used in the portable sanctuary set up by Moses in the wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Photo by author on May 3, 2009
Upasana and author on a one-day bus tour to Jerusalem, organized by Technion friends in 2009. Temple Mount can be seen on the far left. Photo by author.
Taking rest with Technion friends during the picnic to Jerusalem in 2009. Photo by author.
Upasana admiring the collection at a curio shop at Jaffa in 2009. Photo by author.
Having a leisurely walk at a seaside promenade at Jaffa, the ancient port city of Israel, with Dr. Alla Zak, in 2013. Photo by author.
At Neve Tzedek, the first Jewish neighbourhood outside of the old port city of Jaffa, was established in 1887, 20 years before Tel Aviv came into being. Upasana is seen having a stroll there with Dr. Natalie Kronik while on a short trip to Tel Aviv in 2013. Photo by author.
Upasana outside ‘SOHO’, a shop selling gift articles and trinkets at Neve Tzedek, in 2013. Photo by author

An ‘Angelic friend’, Mr. Angel H., drove us one morning to Tel Aviv, and then all the way to the Dead Sea, and delivering us back at our apartment in Technion, a trip lasting 10 hours! Upasana was delighted when he could convince the owner of the restaurant close to Dead Sea to make a vegetarian dish, specially for her.

Testing the highly salty waters during a trip to the Dead Sea in 2009. Photo courtesy, author.

During our visit to Israel in 2010, Dr. Ayelet Vilan, a research scientist from Weizmann Institute, took us on a visit to Negba, the Kibbutz, where she grew up as a child. We learnt about how a kibbutz works and is sustained successfully in Israel. We also visited the war memorial there, and a school [1].

Listening intently about the working of the Negba Kibbutz, during our visit in 2010. Photo by author.
During a visit to a primary school at Negba Kibbutz, in 2010. With Dr. Ayelet Vilan. Photo by author.
Relaxing at the playstation of the school at Negba Kibbutz, during our visit in 2010. Photo by author.

We visited a very unique monument – the residence of the first President of Israel, Prof. Chaim Weizmann, after whom the Weizmann Institute of Science is named. He was a Zionist leader and an Israeli statesman. He continued as President of Israel until his death in November 1952.

The Weizmann House, as it is called, is located in a corner of the Institute, and retains all his belongings as they were at the time of his death. A guide takes the visitors around to explain about things.

The guide at the Weizmann House Museum shows Upasana around during our visit in 2010. Photo by author.
There were only two photographs facing Israel’s President Weizmann in his study, as seen in the Weizmann House Museum. One photo was of his wife, and the other of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President. Photo by author in 2010.

It speaks volumes for the ongoing bilateral friendship and co-operation between the two countries, India and Israel, that the first President of Israel, Prof. Chaim Weizmann had kept only two photographs facing him in his study at his home, one of his wife, and the other of Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India’s first President. Upasana was very impressed with this gesture.

1. J.V. Yakhmi, ‘Negba, a kibbutz with a war memorial’, Times of Israel Blog, April 3, 2022. []

About the Author
Prof. Dr. J.V. Yakhmi, FNASc, had a research career of 45 years at BARC, Mumbai. He authored 450 publications, and 10 books on magnetism, superconductivity, soft matter, Sensors and Organic Electronics, etc. Also published two poetry books and 52 popular articles in newspapers, including Medium. Delivered 425 Invited Lectures in reputed labs and at conferences. As Chairman, AEES, he ran 30 Schools /Junior Colleges across India for three years.
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