Nariman House attack no deterrent for Israeli backpackers

December 3rd, 2008 - 6:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) Dishevelled hair and crumpled T-shirt, but not a line of worry on his face. Issac Manuel, a 34-year-old Israeli tourist who’s just back from his sojourn in Manali, said last week’s terror attack at Nariman House - the Jewish hub - in Mumbai, has not deterred him from returning to this country.“There’s hardly any place left in this world which has not been dented by terrorism. The attack on the Jewish hub in Mumbai is very unfortunate and it has definitely affected me. But that doesn’t mean that one stops visiting India, or for that matter any other place in the world which has been a victim of terrorism,” Manuel, wearing his beard long, told IANS while waiting for his food order to arrive at Sam’s café in Paharganj in central Delhi.

Offering something to suit everybody’s budget, Paharganj - with its range of hotels and inns - is a favourite haunt for Israeli backpackers, like most tourists from other countries.

According to Daria Maoz, who has written her doctorate on Israeli backpackers in India, the Indian consulate in Tel Aviv issues around 30,000 visas a year to Israeli backpackers and a further 20,000 are issued at the Indian consulates in Thailand and Nepal.

Located right next to the New Delhi Railway station, Paharganj makes for an ideal location in Delhi for visitors who are constantly on the move.

Sam’s café is just one of the many joints in this maze of winding, not-very-clean but definitely colourful lanes of this thriving place which is thronged by tourists for a snack or a meal.

“This is the third time that I am in India. I really like it here, but the place which brings me back here again and again, with friends and sometimes even alone is Manali. That place has some kind of magic which you don’t find anywhere else,” Manuel said.

The Ajay Guesthouse where Manuel is staying these days has a number of other backpackers. Among them are two friends Dinah and Esther - both from Israel.

The more soft spoken of the two, Dinah said that last week’s terror attack in Mumbai, which killed 183 people including several foreigners, had scared her.

“I was scared, honestly. Esther and I had arrived in India just three days before the attacks started and were staying here and when that happened, we were shaken up,” Dinah said.

The two then decided to go to Chabad House - a Jewish retreat in Paharganj - and spoke to others there after which they decided to stay put instead of making a hasty exit from the country.

“The killing of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, and the plight of their two-year-old son was heartbreaking. But what we realised was that running away is never a solution,” Esther said.

“Prayers are a big tool and that’s what we did at the Chabad House. We will probably cut short our trip but definitely not before visiting Pushkar and Dharamsala,” she said.

Ezekiel Issac Malekar, honorary secretary and the rabbi in the Judah Hyam Synagogue in the capital - the only one of its kind here - however, said that the Mumbai terror strike has definitely affected the visitors adversely.

“The incident has had a negative effect on the visitors’ minds. A lot of Israeli tourists who come to Delhi and stay in Paharganj visit the synagogue for the Friday prayers or just come to see. And they have told me that they have been scared by the incident,” Malekar told IANS.

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