PM Narendra Modi with Israeli Prime Minister at the Tel Aviv airport. (AFP)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived to a red carpet welcome in Tel Aviv
, with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at the airport to
receive him in a grand ceremonial welcome reserved for US Presidents or the Pope. The leaders greeted each other with a hug and called each other "my friend," in opening remarks. This is the first visit to Israel by an Indian Prime Minister.PM Modi made the arrival statement
personal as he spoke about the sacrifice made by Mr Netanyahu's brother 41 years ago in Operation Entebbe. "Today is July 4, exactly 41 years since Operation Entebbe, the day when your Prime Minister and my friend Bibi lost his elder brother while saving lives of so many hostages. Your heroes are an inspiration for younger generations."
On July 4, 1976, Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, the Prime Minister's older brother, had led an operation to rescue over 90 Israeli citizens from a plane hijacked by a Palestinian group to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Col Netanyahu, 30, was the only Israeli casualty.
At the airport today, after being welcomed by the Israeli Prime Minister, PM Modi began his speech with "hello" in Hebrew and said it was a "singular honour to be the first ever Prime Minister of India to undertake this ground breaking visit."
Today's ceremonial welcome sets the tone for the visit. For the next three days the two leaders will be side by side everywhere."
"Aapka swagat hai mere dost
(Welcome my friend) ," Mr Netanyahu said, adding, "Prime Minister we've been waiting for you a long time, we have been waiting almost 70 years infact. Because yours is truly a historic visit. It's the first time an Indian PM is visiting is Israel...We love India, we admire your culture, your democracy."
PM Modi visited the Danziger "Dan" flower farm to gain first hand information about the latest innovations and advancements in floriculture. After that he will visit the for Yad Vashem Memorial, the Hall of Names, Remembrance Hall and will sign the visitor's book. And then will have special dinner at Benjamin Netanyahu's residence.
Bilateral meetings are scheduled for tomorrow before PM Modi addresses the Indian community. About 80,000 Indian Jews belonging to four different communities - Bene Israel, Cochinis, Baghdadis and Bnei Menashe - live in Israel. Most of them immigrated to Israel in the 1950s and 60s.