Israeli city unveils Indian-Jewish Cultural Square on India’s 77th Independence Day

Eilat (Israel): Celebrating India’s 77th Independence Day, an Indian-Jewish Cultural Square was inaugurated in Eilat city in Israel, dedicated to the strong “civilisational bond” between the two countries built on “centuries of shared heritage and values”.

Eli Lankri, Mayor of Eilat, said the square symbolises love, friendship, mutual caring and deep connection between India and Israel.

It also showcases the connection between the Indian-Jewish community and the city of Eilat, he said after inaugurating the square.

A message on the wall of the square read, “India-Israel friendship is a testimony to the civilational bond of trust and friendship between the two nations that are built on the foundation of centuries of shared heritage, values and aspirations of their people.” “May this friendship inspire future generations with the indomitable spirit of the peoples of India and Israel that transcends geographical boundaries, demonstrating the potential of the collaboration in shaping a brighter future,” it added.

Symbols of the ‘Malida’ ceremony performed by the Bene Israel community from the Maharashtra region on most of their festive occasions, and especially on the Jewish festival of ‘Tu B’Shvat’, also called the new year of the trees, are painted on one side of the wall in the square with flags of India and Israel on the two corners.

Malida is now officially recognised as an official national holiday of the Hebrew Calendar in a major recognition to the Indian-Jewish community’s traditions.

Tradition says that the community’s forefathers arrived in India in 175 BCE (Before the Current Era), exactly on Tu B’Shvat. Their ship, sadly, is said to have sunk off the coast of India, but seven men and as many women were saved from the catastrophe.

Isaac Solomon, an Indian community leader in the city and the driving force behind the initiative, described the site as a “monument symbolising the long-standing friendship between India and Israel”.

“Eilat is a pleasant and warm home for about 120 Indian-Jewish families and many other Indian families, and the Sitar Association is a centre that provides these families with the feeling of belonging to one happy family, the Sitar family,” Solomon said at the ceremony.

Thanking the municipality of Eilat, he said “this great act of kindness will be remembered forever”.

An Indian embassy official present at the ceremony told PTI that “the 85,000 strong Jewish community, with its achievements in diverse areas such as academics, scientific fields, business, defence and so on keeps the flag of both India and Israel flying higher and higher”.

Indian community members, Deputy Mayor Stas Bilkin and officials of the Eilat municipality participated in the ceremony held on Tuesday evening.

The southern coastal city of Israel on the Red Sea has also in the past demonstrated strong ties with India.

In November 2020, the Jewish outreach movement, Chabad, unveiled a plaque in the memory of the six Jewish victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks at its synagogue in the city situated quite close to the square inaugurated on Tuesday.

The 3A paper size plaque in the synagogue has a message engraved on a hard plastic plate.

“To the memory and rise of souls of Rabbi Gavriel Noah and Rivka Holtsberg, who were martyred during the time of their holy mission in a terror attack at Chabad house in Mumbai, India, from which the message of Torah was being spread all over the area. And for the four guests who stayed in Chabad house at the time of the attack, and were also martyred: Rabbi Gavriel Taitelbaum, Mrs. Norma Rabinovich, Rabbi Ben Zion Kurman, Mrs., Yocheved Orpaz. May their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life,” the plaque in Hebrew reads.

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