Monday, December 1, 2008

Israel-India- The link goes beyond terrorism

Here is an interesting article from the NY Times.

An excerpt:
"The affinity of which both men spoke extends well beyond the shared experience of being the target of Islamist terrorism, or the resulting military and security ties between India and Israel. The softer tissue of human experience — culture, religion, values — also binds Indians and Jews.
“The best way to explain it is that I was telling my daughter, ‘If you have to marry outside India, marry a Jew,’ ” said Shoba Narayan, a writer in Bangalore who has visited Israel with her husband, an investment banker. “The cultures are so similar — the commitment to education, the ability to delay gratification, hard work, the guilt, the fatalism. And I think this is because we are both old cultures.”
Indeed, a Jewish community known as the Bene Israel has lived in India for more than 2,400 years, fully tolerated by the surrounding Hindu and Sikh populations. Yet in its first decades after independence, India was also a frequent critic of Zionism and at least a partial ally of the Soviet Union.
With the end of the cold war, and of a reliable flow of Russian weapons and spare parts, India turned to Israel as a supplier of arms and military expertise, said Efraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Israel now sells more than $1 billion in arms annually to India, including the Falcon early-warning system and sea-to-air missiles.
In a less obvious way, too, soldiers have forged ties. About 30,000 Israelis visit India each year, many of them on lengthy vacations after having finished their army service. They, in turn, have brought back to Israel the food, fabric, music and mysticism of India, particularly its Hindus.
The popular Israeli band Sheva has incorporated Indian instruments and chordal structures into its music.
Yoga classes proliferate in Israel. Hindu food, with its emphasis on vegetarian dishes, has been easily adapted for kosher cuisine. An annual festival called Boombamela celebrates all things Indian, if with a somewhat naïve, New Age tilt.
For American Jews of the baby boom generation, the fascination with India began with spiritual searches during the 1960s. Over time, Buddhist meditation became a staple of the Jewish renewal movement and a book by Rodger Kamenetz, “The Jew in the Lotus,” a revered text. By the past decade, enough Jews were practicing some Buddhism to give birth to a new proper noun: Jew-Bu.
Even more recently, the term “Hinjew” has emerged. It does not reflect a religious amalgamation, which would be nearly impossible given Hindu polytheism, as much as it does the cultural common ground of American Jews and Indian Americans who have grown up and gone to school together."

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