It was in 1992 when PV Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister of India and the dynastic rule of the Nehru family came to an end India formally established relations with Israel by opening an embassy in Tel Aviv. It was around that time an agri-tech exhibition, held once in three years was being held in Israel and on a formal invitation from that country a delegation headed by the then agriculture minister Sharad Pawar went to Israel.
I was the Commissioner of Horticulture at the time and was part of a team that went from Andhra Pradesh headed by the then agriculture minister of AP, Jana Reddy. The journey itself will make a separate story - getting stranded at Cairo Airport due to immigration issues and language barrier- and being helped out by a good Samaritan from the Indian Embassy who took care of our visas and flight journey to Tel Aviv .
We were in time for the agri-tech exhibition and the Indian Jewish Association in Israel hosted us a reception. They were mostly from Kochi, Mumbai area and migrated after the formation of Israel in 1948. They told that India is held in high esteem in Israel since Jews that came from across the world to Israel were astonished to learn from the Jews that came from India that there was no anti-Semitism in India and that they were never persecuted.
The recent Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting comes as a grim reminder of prevalence of anti-Semitism in the western world. What was increasingly being observed in Europe started slowly spreading to America as well. No other ethnic group anywhere in the world have suffered so much persecution and mindless violence as the Jewish people for centuries at the hands of both Muslims and Christians. Abraham, the common patriarch for the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is a Jew so is Christ who established Christianity.
Anti-Semitism is based on religious, economic and racial considerations. Religious because Christians feel it is the Jews who killed Jesus and the medieval period prejudices that they defile the Christian practices. Economic because Jews were concentrated in urban centres and were known as rootless cosmopolitans and traditionally in the business of financing and money lending. Domination in this field and prosperity became a matter of envy for others. This popular perception is well captured by Shakespeare in his play Merchant of Venice where Shylock the Jew is shown as a heartless person sharpening knife on his sole to take his pound of flesh and is abused by Gratiano as a disgusting dog.
Worst was the racial prejudice of the 20th century where the Aryan race is considered to be superior to Semitic races leading to a different kind of persecution resulting in the death of millions of Jews in Nazi Germany in Holocaust. That such a thing happened in the modern world as a matter of shame for the human race as such.
Anti-Semitism is an umbrella term for the negative stereotypes about hatred against Jews both individually or as a group. Pinsker, a Zionist activist described Judeophobia a different name for anti-Semitism as a psychic disorder and a disease transmitted for two thousand years and is incurable and hereditary. Having suffered in the hands of the western population for centuries no wonder he came to such conclusion.
Some of the best in different fields happen to be Jews. Whether it is Jesus Christ, Karl Marx or the great physicist Albert Einstein, the great comedian Woody Allen, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, economist Paul Samuelson, actress Elizabeth Taylor, film director Stephen Spielberg there is one thing in common as all of them are Jews.
Today the number of Jews across the world is very small. About 6 million in Israel and America and about 2.5 million scattered across the world. As observed by Pinsker, anti-Semitism looks to be an incurable hereditary disease of the west which is going to rise its ugly head again and again and Jews may not feel safe in Europe or in the USA in days to come.
This may be a good opportunity for India to welcome them to make India their second home. The fact that for centuries Jews in India never suffered any discrimination is itself an insurance for them to feel safe and comfortable in a country like India. Their abilities and enterprise can play a vital role in shaping the economic future of this country. After all when Zoroastrians left Iran and sought shelter in a Gujarati kingdom who knew it is this community which is going to produce Tatas and Godrejs who played a crucial role in establishing the Indian Industry.