Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022

Exodus Revisited

A diplomat’s wife traces the footsteps of Indian Jews in Israel

Exodus Revisited Photo courtesy: Bension Benjamin

Promised Land: India Chapter

  • Seventy thousand Jews of Indian origin live in a country of seven million
  • Began migrating to Israel in the 1950s, after being wooed by representatives of the Jewish Agency, an organisation in charge of immigration
  • Migrated from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Calcutta and Kerala where they had lived
    in pluralistic neighbourhoods and not encountered anti-Semitism
  • Settled by the Israeli state in undeveloped towns or farming communities
  • Most are unable to break the barriers of class, colour and status; but second and third generation are better off than first
  • Their cultural and community programmes reflect a proud connection with India


The dwindling Jewish community in India attracts the curiosity of tourists and hungry foreign journalists but the thousands of Indian Jews who came to the Promised Land seem all but absent from the narrative of Israel. Working on the fringes and surviving in obscure towns, they seem unable to break the barriers of class, colour and status. They remain largely invisible in Israel’s big cities, big jobs and big politics and are not card-carrying members of the Israeli elite.