India’s Hindus identify closely with Jews and Israel – here’s why

In her three years of service in the New Delhi embassy, Hodaya Avzada met many who compared Israel favorably to themselves.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Many Indian Hindus identify closely with Israel even though there are so many differences between the tiny Jewish nation and the huge south-east Asian country, an Israeli diplomat who  spent three years in the country said Sunday, according to The Jewish Chronicle (JC).

Hodaya Avzada, who had been posted to the Indian capital for three years before being transferred recently to serve as a first secretary in Israel’s London embassy, told British supporters of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology that Hinduism is a religion, but also, “in a lot of ways is a national feeling” and an “identity.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has led India since 2014, is an unabashedly Hindu nationalist party.

Although Hindus are a majority in India, Avzada told her audience that “they feel like they have to protect Hinduism” not only in their country, but throughout the region, “where they are in small numbers — Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, some in Pakistan,” the JC reported.

This could be comparable to Israeli governments continually speaking up for and helping Jews around the world, and not only Israeli citizens. Israel provides emissaries to Jewish communities in order to strengthen Jewish education and a relationship with Israel, gives security advice to Jewish institutions, demands action against antisemitism at the highest levels of government, and helps their coreligionists physically.

For example, the IDF sent its rescue unit two years ago to Surfside, Florida, when a condominium filled with Jews suddenly collapsed one night, to try and find survivors in the wreckage.

The Jewish identity of the country is also a subject that raises heated emotions, with much of the current controversy over judicial reform revolving around the alleged dichotomy of being both a Jewish and a democratic state.

“They look up to us in so many ways,” the diplomat said, noting that “Israel was a country created from nothing, had no natural resources, no nothing, and then became this regional superpower.”

Over recent decades, India’s economic growth has exploded, with per capita earnings leaping seven-fold over the last 30 years as it becomes a high-tech nation. According to the International Monetary Fund, it is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

“Security-wise, Israel’s experience also speaks to India,” she noted, “because India also has security threats around it, and Israel is of course well-known for its defense forces.”

Jerusalem and New Delhi share close defense ties, with joint military drills, intelligence sharing and numerous deals that provide over $1 billion in Israeli military equipment to the sub-continent. There are also joint research and development projects in numerous areas, including cybersecurity, water conservation and agriculture as well as weaponry.

Avzada enjoyed her very first posting, having come from a job in the Bank of Israel to the diplomatic corps. “Being an Israeli in India is amazing. Being an Israeli diplomat in India is outstanding,” she told her audience.

Similarly, in an interview on the British evangelist Revelation TV last month, she said of her time in New Delhi, “Being an Israeli in India is a very unique experience, because there’s such a love towards Israel, and we sense that.”