Final Blog Post, Indian American Opinion Leaders

November 20th, 2016

Note: A delegation of Indian American Opinion and Policy Leaders is in Israel with AJC Project Interchange and AJC Asia Pacific Institute. The delegation is accompanied by Shira Loewenberg, Director, AJC Asia Pacific Institute, and Nissim Reuben, Assistant Director, AJC Asia Pacific Institute.

Day 6, Final Blog Post

After a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and Museum, we met with Rabbi David Rosen, AJC’s International Director of Interreligious Affairs and Director of AJC’s Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding. Rabbi Rosen had just returned from an interfaith mission to India, and spoke of AJC as being at the forefront of Jewish-Hindu relations. He spoke of the overlap in values between Judaism and Hinduism, and of the warm ties with various Hindu leaders, as well as leaders of other faiths - Sikhs, Buddhists, Muslims, Jains - who gathered together for an event in Rishikesh.

Rabbi Rosen continued with an overview of the religious makeup of Israel, particularly the Jewish community. He explained the emergence of the State of Israel, with secular Jews at the forefront, and the current makeup and political implications of ultra-Orthodox, modern Orthodox, religious nationalist, and secularists/traditionalist communities, and tensions between them.

In the late afternoon, the group toured the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jewish and Christian Quarters, with stops at the Tomb of David and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Walking in the shuk (marketplace), the group had a brief opportunity to buy souvenirs, and then returned to the hotel for a short break and debrief of the program before departing for a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner.

Participants’ reflections on the trip were overwhelmingly positive. One participant called the trip “extraordinary,” commenting that “the relationship of scale to issue is incomprehensible without physically being in the country”. Participants highlighted the interplay of geography, history, security, politics and ideology, and that without being in situ and meeting with such a variety of Israelis and Palestinians, a real understanding of Israel is impossible.

The concluding Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner, hosted by an Israeli family in their Jerusalem home, capped the week-long visit to Israel, sharing both the festivity of welcoming the Sabbath and the ensuing quiet that accompanies the day of rest. It was a perfect close to a fully substantive and enjoyable week.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.