Date: 9/23/2002


Judaism, the religion of the Jews has many features common with Hinduism

These common features are not a result of cultural interchange alone but owe their a similarity in conditions in which the came into being.

The common factor in both these religions is that they have preserved a continuous link with antiquity, in the sense that they were not established by any one person or a group of persons at any identifiable time in history. They had evolved out of the religious attitudes that were nurtured since pre-historic times by humankind. No doubt both the religions have undergone changes with the passage of time but their links with antiquity remained unbroken .

Judaism has had a very traumatic and tragic history for the past two thousand five hundred years since the destruction of their first temple up to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

A Diaspora of 2,500 Years

Apart from having been tyrannized, right from Babylonian and Assyrian times 2500 years back when their first temple at Jerusalem was destroyed, the Jews have been oppressed by many subsequent rulers like the Persians Greeks, Romans and non-Jewish Semitic people (after Islam) in their home-land of Israel.

A large part of the history of the Jews was enacted in exile. After the beginning of their diaspora due to Roman persecution about 2000 years back, the Jews have been living in various countries as exiles. In Europe they were generally looked down And most of the reasons for this were a result of the arbitrary hatred of the community by their hosts. The Spanish inquisition let loose a reign of terror on the Jews living in Spain, when many Jews were burnt at the stake. The latest wholesale organised slaughter the Jews, ' the Holocaust', was the result of a sick Teutonic mind. The Jewish community today still bears the scars of this Hitlerite nightmare. But the Hitlerite legacy is not yet a thing of the past, it exists today in the jaundiced attitude of those who continue to treat the Jewish state as an outcaste with the aim of appeasing the theocratic states around it.

The recent history of the Jews is associated with their original homeland called Palestine which was part of the Turkish empire till 1917. Following Germany' s defeat in the First World War, the empire of its ally Turkey was dismembered. The British took a large part of it - Palestine as the spoils of their victory. As a reward for helping them in defeating the Turks, they carved off Palestine and gave away the larger part to a Bedouin Arab, named Abdullah, who became the first Hashemite King of Transjordan (now Jordan) by which the 70% of Palestine was called. his grandson Hussein now rules Jordan.

The remainder of Palestine was mandated by the British. In 1947 Britain had to give up control over this part of Palestine which was divided into Israeli and Arab Zones. The Arab Zone went to Jordan.

This division was accepted by the Jews but not by the Arabs. The Arabs went to war in 1948, they lost. They went to war four times after that and lost. They chose to live in refugee camps and did not settle in _ the other half of Palestine which was now Jordan. Their efforts were concentrated on destruction of the State of Israel and expulsion of the Jews who had returned there after living in exile for more than 2500 years. The Arab states and the Arabs living in what is now Israel could not bring themselves to accept the fact that Israel had been created by dividing Palestine into two parts, with Israel being a homeland for the Jews and the other half of Palestine i.e. Jordan, being the country of the Arabs previously residing in Israel.

Today there are many Arabs living in Israel, but most Arabs whether living in Israel or outside it have never reconciled themselves in their heart of hearts to the fact of Israel's existence, unlike the way Indians have accepted Pakistan. Pakistan which too was created after partitioning a formerly united ~ country. Israel is today like a fishbone stuck in the Arab throat and try as they can the Arabs have not so far been able to spit it out. But due to international pressures and Israel's conciliatory approach, we see today a state of Palestine which occupies parts of territory which had formed a part of Israel since 1967.

But let be noted here that the Palestinians are not going to be content with Gaza and parts of the West Bank. They will eventually declare a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. And they will ultimately not stop till they succeed in swallowing the entire state of Israel (or at least perish while trying to do so). It is high time that Israeli leaders realize the kind of mortal challenge that they face to their existence in the form of Palestinian demands.

Jews in India

Jews have been present in India since the 1st century of our era. Most of the Jews were concentrated in Kerala in South India. Cochin was their main centre of settlement. Even today we have some ancient synagoges at Cochin. They also lived in Western India mainly in Mumbai and Pune.

In India, Jews from West Asia called Bagdadi Jews immigrated in the l9th century. They were mainly industrialists and traders. Sir David Sasson is the most illustrious name of this community of Jews. In Mumbai, the Jewish community was concentrated in the Jacob Circle (now renamed Gadge Maharaj Chowk) area in Central Bombay. They have a synagogue there. The Jews in India were a microscopic community of around a few thousands. They had totally integrated themselves with the society around them. Their dress is traditionally Indian. Their womenfolk wear saree; and bangles. Their surnames and family names like those of other Indians. Their culinary habits are totally Indian.

(Charles F. Potter - The Story of Religion, Geroge Harrap, London, 1930 PP 111,112)

Their Indian character is so pronounced that even after many of them have migrated to Israel, they are known their as Bene-Israelis. While Israel is their original homeland and it is natural for them to migrate to Israel, the fact that have completely absorbed Indian culture is evident from the fact that the first generation of Indian Jews settling in Israel find it difficult to adjust to their new surroundings. But this too is natural as Israelis are composed of the immigrant Jews who for thousands of years had been living in different foreign countries.

As Israel is the original homeland of all Jews, a time may come when there are no more Jews in India, even today they are not more than a few thousands. Though this emigration is a natural one for the Jews to realise their own national and cultural aspirations, we in India do stand to lose a microscopic but dynamic element of ourselves. to the emergent sovereign state of Israel.