India, Israel explore new partnerships in culture and education

September 11th, 2008 - 5:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 11 (IANS) India and Israel are exploring new partnerships in culture and education to consolidate bilateral ties.An India-Israel Colloquium ‘Preserving Cultural Identities in Today’s World’ Wednesday probed the intellectual synergy between the two nations in the context of the historical relationship between the two countries.

“Israel and India are similar in many ways. Education has always been a priority both with the Jews and Indians. We are trying to create institutional links between institutes of higher learning in Israel and in India,” Eli Belotsercovsky, deputy chief of mission, Embassy of Israel, told IANS.

Belotsercovsky said a delegation of vice-chancellors of Indian universities visited Israel July and interfaced with their counterparts in the country.

“We will soon establish a chair of Israeli and Jewish studies in one of the universities in India. We are looking at Delhi since it is the seat of education,” he said.

Israel has seven universities of which three have faculties of Indology. “In some, we teach Indian languages like Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam. We cannot teach other languages because we don’t have teachers,” the envoy explained.

Israelis, he said, identify with Indians, in three areas.

People who have been to India carry memories of its rich culture and colours back home. Every year, nearly 40,000 Israelis visit India.

Others know India from Bollywood movies which, he said, are very popular in Israel.

“Israeli cable television offers Zee TV as an Indian option which telecasts Hindi movies, including classics. A number of students from Israel come to India to study arts, culture and philosophy and vice-versa,” Belotsercovsky said.

Israel is seeking to cooperate with India in education, tourism, spirituality and culture. “Like most educated Indians, Jews also believe that education is the most valuable asset that one can carry from one place to another in case circumstances force them to migrate. The outlook has its origin in history and the birth of the Jewish nation,” the envoy explained.

Two other areas include spirituality and tourism. “There is tremendous amount of interest in Israel towards India, which is considered a major spiritual centre. We are planning to boost tourism and bring more cultural performances from Israel to India,” he said.

Addressing the colloquium, Ashok Vajpeyi, chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi, quoted Jewish poet Yehuda Amichai saying the Jews were not a historical people, but a geological race, who have grown along with their land.

Indians too, Vajpeyi said, were not a historical people but a race that has grown over the centuries and with the progress of civilisations.

Putting the India-Israel ties in historical perspective, professor Himanshu Prabha Ray of Jawaharlal Nehru University traced the roots to the Ganizah Papers, old Jewish trade and religious accounts written in Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic, which were stored in a synagogue in Fustat in the 18th and the 19th century.

“It delves into Indo-Jewish trade links in context of Beniju, the trader from Tripoli who traded in spices and silks and his slave Bama, an Indian from the Carnatic coast,” she said. Novelist Amitav Ghosh had interpreted the Ganizah Papers in his 1992 novel, “In An Antique Land”.

The colloquium was addressed by Ashok Vajpeyi, Himanshu Prabha Ray, Benjamin Kedar, chairperson of the Israeli antiquity, and Aliza Shenhar, former rector of the University of Haifa, among others.

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