India and Israel – Brothers in Arms

Flags - India and Israel

Flags – India and Israel

Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi visits Israel from July 4-6 at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, making him the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Jewish homeland. This historic moment is part of India’s modernisation, both in terms of the economy and foreign policy.

Indian Soldiers and the Battle of Haifa

During the Battle of Haifa, 23 September 1918, Indian soldiers attacked the rearguard forces of the Ottoman Empire that resulted in the capture of the towns of Haifa and Acre.

Three Indian naval ships, destroyer INS Mumbai, frigate INS Trishul and tanker INS Aditya, made a goodwill visit at the Haifa port in May 2017 to mark 25 years of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Great Indian politics

The formation of India happened on secular lines, and so does our constitution say, but vote bank politics based on caste and religion were part of Indian political system right from the day we achieved independence. As such, Indian politics always favoured the minority community – although they did nothing for them.

In 1947 Albert Einstein wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru, asking him to support the creation of Israel. Nehru declined, saying “Palestine is essentially an Arab country, and must remain so.”

This was done because of the risk of angering the Indian Muslims, who live in a secular country like India but have a Muslim-centric view of the world.

The Conflict Within

India voted against the Partitioning of Palestine plan of 1947 and voted against Israel’s admission to the United Nations in 1949. But Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar supported the creation of Israel on both moral and political grounds, and condemned India’s vote at the UN against Israel. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar admired Jewish nationalism and believed Palestine was the natural territory of the Jewish people, essential to their aspiration for nationhood.

On 17 September 1950, India officially recognised the State of Israel.  In 1953, Israel was permitted to open a consulate in Bombay (now Mumbai). However, the Nehru government did not want to pursue full diplomatic relations with Israel as it supported the Palestinian cause, and believed that permitting Israel to open an embassy in New Delhi would damage relations with the Arab world.

Till early 1990s, the relationship remained informal in nature. India’s opposition to official diplomatic relations with Israel stemmed from both domestic and foreign considerations. Domestically, politicians in India feared losing the Muslim vote if relations were normalised with Israel. Additionally, India did not want to jeopardise the large amount of its citizens working in Arab States of the Persian Gulf, who were helping India maintain its foreign-exchange reserves. India’s domestic need for energy was another reason for the lack of normalisation of ties with Israel, in terms of safeguarding the flow of oil from Arab nations.

India’s tilt towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and India’s desire to counter Pakistan’s influence over the Arab states was another reason why we maintained distance from Israel.

Change of Policy

India formally established relations with Israel in January 1992 and ties between the two nations have flourished since, primarily due to common strategic interests and security threats. The formation of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which allegedly neglected the sentiments of Indian Muslims, and the blocking of India by Pakistan from joining the OIC is the major cause for this diplomatic shift.

Help, Partnership and Beyond

  • War with Pakistan

Israel offered unconditional help to India during the 1971 and 1999 Kargil war.

  • Missile Technology

In September 2016, tests were conducted of the jointly developed Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile with a range of 70 km, intended to equip three guided-missile destroyers of the Indian Navy.

India successfully tested the Israeli-made SPYDER quick-reaction surface-to-air missile in May 2017. The Indian Air Force is planning to deploy this system on its western border.

  • Agriculture

In 2008, Israel and India finalised an agricultural plan introducing crops native to the Middle East and Mediterranean to India, with a focus on olives. Subsequently, around 112,000 olive trees were planted in the desert of Rajasthan. In 2014, more than 100 tonnes of olives were produced in Rajasthan.

An Indo-Israel agriculture action plan for 2015-18 is operational, and 15 of the proposed 26 centres of excellence in agriculture are being developed in India with Israel’s help to showcase the latest technology to Indian farmers.

  • Water Management

On June 28, 2017, the union cabinet approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Israel on the National Campaign for Water Conservation in India.

Technologically-adept Israel has developed water-management technologies, located as it is in a semi-arid region with limited sources of fresh drinking water.

  • Trade

As of 2014, India is the third-largest Asian trade partner of Israel, and tenth-largest trade partner overall. India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second-largest defence supplier to India.

  • Space

In 2002, India and Israel signed a cooperative agreement promoting space collaboration between both nations.

In 2003, the Israel Space Agency, ISA, expressed interest in collaborating with ISRO, in using satellites for improved management of land and other resources.

In 2005, Israel decided to launch TecSAR, its first synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite, on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV

In 2009, India successfully launched RISAT-2, a synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite. RISAT-2 was manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI, in conjunction with ISRO. The launch of the RISAT-2 satellite aimed to provide India with greater earth observation power, which would improve disaster management, and increase surveillance and defence capabilities. The acquisition and subsequent launch of the RISAT-2 satellite was accelerated after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, to boost India’s future surveillance capabilities.

  • Tourism

Around 40,000 Israelis, many of whom have just finished military service, visit India annually. There are dozens of Chabad-operated community centres in India, where many Israelis celebrate holidays and observe religious traditions. Popular destinations for Israelis include Goa, the Himalayas, Old Manali, Vashisht, Naggar, Kasol, and the villages surrounding Dharamsala. In many of these areas, Hebrew signs on businesses and public transportation are widely noticeable.

  • Judaism in India

The history of the Jewish people in India dates back to ancient times. Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive in India in recorded history

An estimated 85,000 Jews of Indian-origin live in Israel, the majority being from Maharashtra (Bene Israelis), with some from Kerala (Cochini Jews) and Kolkata (Baghdadi Jews).

  • Moshe Holtzberg

Moshe Holtzberg had survived the 26/11 carnage at the age of two, having lost his parents to the terror attack on the Nariman House. Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, who was five months pregnant, were killed during the November 2008 Mumbai attacks by Pakistani Islamic terrorists. Their two-year-old son Moshe survived the attack after being rescued by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel.

India and Israel are ‘brothers in arms’, we are both surrounded by hostile neighbours and have been at the receiving end of radical Islamic terror. We both face an existential threat from forces within and outside our community. Sharing information and technology will not only bring peace and prosperity in our respective countries but in the world at-large, and this is what makes us natural partners. The visit of Indian Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi to Israel is historic and has the potential to take Indo-Israeli ties to a new high. Shalom.

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Benefits of Yoga

Yoga

Today being international yoga day, I felt it only necessary to write a couple of lines about yoga and its benefits.

What is yoga?

Yoga is a way of living that aims towards ‘a healthy mind residing in a healthy body’. Contrary to the belief, it is not a religion. Which means that even if you hate Hinduism you can still safely practice yoga. Although just like everything that has originated in this country and been there since millenniums, yoga has its roots in the Hindu culture.

What is the use of yoga?

The benefits of yoga mostly depend on the lifestyle one follows and the kind of asanas one practices. But even after regularly practicing yoga for just a few weeks, here are some of the benefits one may experience:

  1. Improved flexibility
  2. Muscle strength
  3. Better posture
  4. Better blood circulation
  5. Lower stress levels
  6. Relaxed body and mind
  7. Better focus

What are the advantages of yoga?

The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. The various poses and deep breaths help the heart do its job, increasing blood flow throughout the body, and improving the entire circulatory system. Yoga is also known to relieve stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation. It also sharpens attention and concentration.

Can yoga get you in shape?

While yoga is not an intense workout as running or aerobics would be, but you can still get in shape if you stick to a regular workout schedule.

What is the ultimate purpose of yoga?

The goal of yoga is to help the individual transcend the self and attain enlightenment.

यदा विनियतं चित्तमात्मन्येवावतिष्ठते |

नि:स्पृह: सर्वकामेभ्यो युक्त इत्युच्यते तदा ||

Which means, when a perfectly disciplined mind gets freedom from all desires and becomes absorbed in the self alone, a person is said to have achieved yoga.

But this is easier said than done and takes years of devotion, practice, dietary restrictions and control over senses to reach such a state. As for the ordinary person, it improves circulation, posture, flexibility, muscle strength, helps relax the body and the mind, brings down stress levels and helps sleep better.

In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested United Nations to celebrate June 21 as the International Yoga Day as it is the summer solstice; the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in wellbeing. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” — Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly, September 2014.

If you still haven’t welcomed yoga into your life, it’s never too late.

Circumcision is a Human Rights Violation

Mutiliation

Even in this century many parents believe that getting their child circumcised is not only their religious duty but also a social responsibility. Should this not be the decision of the person who owns the organ? Does performing such a procedure on non-consenting adults (mostly infants) makes this an in-humane act?

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is surgical removal of skin from the very tip of the penis.

Benefits of getting circumcised?

One of the epic benefit that people acclaim about circumcision is that they have a less chance of catching an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). The important thing to remember is that this procedure has questionable safety against protecting an individual from STDs. Also, many people would agree that there are many better things to do in life than being a whore-monger, and having unprotected sex with multiple partners.

Dangers of getting circumcised?

Below are the few complications that may arise:

  1. Bleeding, people suffering from haemophilia may even die.
  2. Infection or improper healing.
  3. Blockage of the urethra, the opening where urine leaves the body.
  4. Removal of too much or too little foreskin.

Religion and circumcision

The reason circumcision is performed is because it symbolises faith in God. Although Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs do not get their children circumcised but they are as religious and God fearing as people practicing other faiths, who get their infants circumcised.

While circumcision is primarily done for religious reasons, but this necessary does not make a person a good human being. If that was the case radical Sunni Islamic believers wouldn’t be killing Shias and waging a global war against all non-believers of Islam, or those who do not agree with their Wahhabi and Salafi ideology.

Message

We live in the 21st century where even an animal has rights and culling an animal on the road is not only considered uncouth but is also a punishable offence. While a blanket ban on circumcision would be unnecessary, but circumcising non-consenting adults and infants is also not civilized. Since we neither live in a theocratic society or in the dark ages, religious rituals should not eclipse the fundamental right to bodily integrity.

Little boy meets God

pradeepshrivastava

“Mama! Do you know where God lives?” Raghu asked his mother innocently.

Raghu’s mother, Sandhya, thought for a second and said. “No one knows where God lives. But he visits the park in the neighborhood sometimes on Sunday’s.”

“Today is Sunday!” Raghu spoke excitedly. “Will we be going to the park today?”

Sandhya pretended to think for a moment and said. “Okay. We will go to the park today. Tell your dad to get ready soon.”

“Okay.”

“Wait! When you meet God what are you going to offer him?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’ll pack pop-corn and sweet lemon juice.”

The three soon got ready and left for the park.

“If God decides to visit the park, he sits on either one of those three benches.” Sandhya said pointing towards the three empty benches.

Raghu started playing around the benches, while Sandhya and Rahul kept an eye on him from a distance.

Soon an old woman, with a slight limp, came and sat on one of the empty bench.

Raghu curiously started looked at her. The old woman observed him and smiled back at him.

Raghu silently sat next to the old woman and started observing the wrinkles on her face, which made her look all the more beautiful.

“Are you hungry?” Raghu asked. “I brought pop-corn and sweet lemon juice for you.”

“How did you know that it is my favourite?”

For the next 30 minutes the two laughed and talked.

“Where are your parents?” The old woman asked.

“There.” Raghu pointed in their direction and they waived back.

“Now go back to them.” The old woman said. She then kissed his forehead and happily left.

With a big smile Raghu returned back to his parents.

“So, did you meet God?” Rahul asked.

“Yes. God is a woman and she has pain in her right knee.” Raghu replied immediately.

When the old woman returned back to her home, there was a big smile on her face.

“You look very happy, met someone special today?” Her son enquired.

“I had pop-corn and sweet lemon juice with God. He is much younger than I thought and has a slight lisp.”

As we Hindus say about God’s presence, Yatra Tatra Sarvatra. Meaning that God is present, here there everywhere.

God is present everywhere. All we need to do is share our happiness and make others smile to feel him.

Dussehra – The victory of good over evil

shri-ram

The word Dussehra is derived from Sanskrit and means “Ravan’s defeat”. It is also known as Vijayadashami and Ayudhapuja.

Ram-Sita.jpg

Lord Ram and Goddess Sita

According to Hindu religion this is considered to be a very auspicious day. On this day Lord Ram defeated the demon Ravan, who had abducted his wife Goddess Sita. The festival of Dussehra thus signifies the victory of good of evil.

Ramlila_Dasratha.jpg

Ramlila

In many parts of North India there are performances of Ramlila (short version of Ramayan). There are fairs and parades with effigies of demon Ravan, which are burnt during the evening.

Ravana_fizzles.jpg

Effigy of Ravan being burnt

Other important stories behind Dussehra

a. Goddess Durga’s victory over Demon Mahishasur

Durga n Mahishasura.JPEG

b. The story of Pandav brothers

The Pandavs (the five sons of King Pandu) and their wife Draupadi lost to the Kauravs in a dice game and were exiled in the forest for twelve years. The Pandav brothers hid their weapons in a hole in a Shami tree before they entered the kingdom of Virat to complete their final year of exile.

After that year, on Vijayadashmi they recovered the weapons, declared their true identities and defeated Kauravas, who had attacked King Virat to steal his cattle. Since that day, Shami trees and weapons have been worshiped and the exchange of Shami leaves on Vijayadashmi has been a symbol of good will.

Famous Dussehra celebrations

a. Bastar Dussehra is the unique cultural trait of Chhattisgarh. Celebrated by the local people of the state with sufficient vigor, the festival of Dussehra connotes to the supreme power of goddess Danteswari. During Dussera, the inhabitants of Bastar organizes special worship ceremonies at the Danteswari temple of Jagadalpur.

b. Mysore Dussehra is the state festival of Karnataka, a 10-day festival with the last day being Vijayadashami. The city of Mysore Dussehra has a long tradition of celebrating the festival, attracting a large audience.

Mysore Dussehra.jpg

Mysore Dussehra

c. Kullu Dussehra is one of the most famous Dussehra festival celebrated in the Dhalpur maidan in the Kullu valley. Himachal Pradesh has given Kullu Dussehra festival a status of International festival which attracts tourists in large numbers.

Kullu_Dussehra.jpg

Kullu Dussehra

References