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India, Israel and the Jewish People

13. Many Hindu Indians express friendship for Israel, but there is also a large part of the Indian population that has never heard of Jews, Judaism, the Holocaust, or Israel. Some who have heard of Israel regard it as an uninteresting and undemocratic country permanently embroiled in war. Others are ill informed about Israel’s origin and its creation. Israel and Judaism should become better known in India. To enhance Israel and the Jewish people’s long-term relationship with India, initiate an Indo-Jewish “Dialogue of Civilizations” and emphasize the Jewish contribution to the cultures of the world. The 3000-year history of contacts between the Indians and Jews is likely to stir fascination among Indians. In regard to media-links, no Israeli journalist is posted in India (or in China, for that matter). Israel’s media rarely covers news from India, and when they do it is generally related to developments directly involving or affecting Israel.

  • Enlarge the scope of the Israeli narrative beyond the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Emphasize Israel’s history, its pluralistic culture, its dynamic civil society, its democratic institutions, and its arts and literature.
  • Toward this end, develop a comprehensive cultural outreach strategy, targeting many sub-groups of the Indian population, particularly those with influence on policy-making.
  • Set up a Jewish-Israeli cultural institute in New Delhi or Mumbai, on the model of the German Goethe Institutes. This institute should offer programs on Jewish and Israeli religion, history, and culture. This should include lectures and movies about the Holocaust, which is largely unknown in India, and about the contributions Indian Jews have made to India and to Israel. The institute should organize Jewish and Israeli events, such as book fairs and film and food festivals. It should also offer Hebrew language instruction.
  • Donate books about Judaism, Jewish history, and Israel to Indian public libraries, and seek resources in both the Jewish and Indian world for the translation of Jewish and Israeli works into Indian languages.
    Use entertainment and media, mainly television and online social media, to reach the Indian population, particularly the young and the growing middle class. For example:
    • Strongly support – in Israel, Hollywood, and Mumbai – the development of Indo-Israeli co-productions of Bollywood movies set in Israel, starring India’s famous actors. Such films have the potential to be seen by dozens of millions in and outside of India. The resulting increased Indian tourism in Israel would likely generate highly remunerative returns on investment.
    • Produce for broadcast on Indian television, Indian language programming on Jewish and Israeli history and religion. (This could be modeled on the 12-part documentary series, The Road to Jewish Civilization, produced in 2011 by China Central Television (CCTV) in cooperation with the Embassy of Israel in Beijing.)
    • Produce Indian language audio and video clips on Judaism and Israel, particularly Israeli agricultural, water, and other innovations, to be broadcast on the Internet (YouTube), social media, and on community radio stations in Indian villages.
    • Organize an Israel visit for some of India’s best-known bloggers.
    • Mobilize the American and other Jewish communities to help fund some of these activities (see Recommendation 3).
    • Encourage Israel’s media to maintain at least a part-time reporter in India and offer more news on events in India.