Mumbai: The Jewish community in Mumbai is looking forward to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the city on Thursday. Mr Netanyahu landed at Delhi airport yesterday where he was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During his six-day tour, he will visit the Chabad House, which was targeted during the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead. He will be accompanied by 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg or Baby Moshe, who returns for the first time to the house where his parents were killed in the 26/11 terror attacks.
Later, he will meet entrepreneurs and cine stars in the city of dreams.
There are about 5,000 members of the Jewish community living in India, but most of them call Mumbai their home. The city had a sizeable Jewish population, however, around 33,000 Jews migrated to Israel when the state of Israel was created.
While Mumbai has three distinct Jewish communities -- Bene Israel Jews, Baghdadi Jews and the Malabar Jews -- they are now largely known as Indian Jews. For them, this visit by Israeli PM is about reconnecting with old friends, strengthening old bonds and above all finding joy in the strengthening of ties between India, their home and Israel, which will be beneficial to both countries.
Oren Rosenfeld, an Israeli documentary filmmaker, through his film "Mumbai Jews" has attempted to tell the story of Mumbai's Jewish community. The difference between Indian Jews and those who moved to Israel is that those who have their roots in India keep coming back unlike others, he said.
"This community welcomes the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister for several reasons. Several community members have left Mumbai for Israel but they haven't really left it. They keep coming back. The connection between them and India is very strong because of our shared culture and families here," Mr Rosenfeld told NDTV.
At Mumbai's Magen David synagogue, worshipers are excited about the first visit to India by an Israeli leader in almost 15 years.
Eddna Samuels, an advertising professional, whose family chose to stay back in Mumbai instead of moving to Israel, also appeals to the PM Netanyahu to find more time for the community. "We would love to have him at our synagogue," she told NDTV.
Ms Samuels also wants Israel to ease visa procedure for Indian Jews, which at present is quite cumbersome, she said. "Documentation has been a huge issue. If that is made a little easier, it would help the community," she added.
For Solomon Sopher, President of the India Jewish Congress, the reciprocal visits and warm ties between the two countries will help foster closer ties. "The closer the cooperation, the closer the Jewish community in India feels to Israel. So we feel recognised and we feel secure," he said.
He says that while Arab-Israeli conflict has meant ties between Muslims and Jews remain strained, in India it's a different story even after the 26/11 attacks by terrorists from Pakistan, he said. "We did feel a bit insecure from the point of view of terror but not from the people of India and not from the Muslims of India. The Muslims of India are a very friendly people and connected with us."