By Rhea Mathur
Israel and India’s relationship is symbolically represented by the tall, bronze statues that stand at Teen Murti Haifa Chowk. The depths of their bond can be understood by the history of the two countries. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister (PM) of India communicated with the then PM of Israel through letters and shared with him a bond based on mutual respect. Now, a century later, it can be conferred that not only do the countries provide each other with military and economic support but also share religious beliefs.
Inclusion in Israeli education
Universities like Ben Gurion University in Israel offer subjects such as ‘Contemporary Indian politics and economy’ in its politics based courses. In Universities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, students are taught about the ancient Indian culture and heritage. These courses talk about Indian philosophy and religion in depth to help Israeli students learn more about India, the country with an array of religious beliefs. Each year, the University of Tel Aviv takes the top students in these selected courses to visit India. Through this, they can learn first-hand about Indian religion and culture.
A history of cultural and political alliance
In addition, students studying Indian culture and religion have often found it to be similar to Israeli culture. Judaism and Hinduism are two of the world’s oldest religions. Indian scriptures like the Mahabharata translated in Hebrew have helped people in Israel realise the similarities between the two religions. India and Israel were split into Muslim and Hindu majority and Muslim and Jewish majority respectively after the British rule. Apart from both having been ruled by Muslim leaders—Mughals and Ottoman Turks for over three hundred years—the countries also celebrate a festival of light, Diwali and Hanukkah. Such similarities led to the realisation of deeper connections between the countries and their individual histories.
The strong bond between the two countries also stems from the period of exile for the Jews. While the concept of anti-Semitism had become widely accepted, Indians stood against it, welcoming Jews into their homes. This treatment towards the Jews aided the development of trust between the two countries.
Similarities between subliminal elements of the cultures
Nikki Haley, the Indian origin United States (US) Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) when asked about similarities between the two countries stated that there were many. She said that there were good things as well as bad things that the countries had in common. The good included having a “strong work ethic” along with believing in “professionalism and philanthropy, and giving back”. She also said that in both cultures, families are “very close-knit. We love our families”. Yet, she accepted that both Indians and Israelis prove to be “aggressive”, “stubborn” and neither can “back down from a fight”.
The history of the countries, which contributed to the creation of their values and beliefs, are inferred to be the reason for similarities between the nations. David Dean Shulman, an Indologist stated that the Hebrew Bible, an Israeli scripture, contains several Tamil words. The cultures thus overlap more deeply than known.
Strengthening connection between the nations
India’s rich and vast culture is slowly penetrating the Israeli lifestyle with their new understanding of Indian beliefs. Along with this, Indian students are also given scholarships by some of the top universities in Israel for higher education. The Indian Embassy in Israel further facilitated this with the start of the Bharat Darshan scholarship.
In India, universities like Ashoka University offer the completion of a semester abroad. This year, they included the city of Tel Aviv on their list. Students from India took part in this cultural exchange by visiting the country and studying at the prestigious Tel Aviv University. They were able to learn about the Israeli beliefs and their social culture. The relations between the two countries are now spreading beyond the economic and military support to the intermingling of cultures. Students from both the nations are able to understand each other better because of the various opportunities available to them.
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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