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Mumbai Jews despondent, but still hopeful
September 10, 2003 20:46 IST
A cloud of disappointment settled down over the nearly 3000-strong Jewish community in Mumbai following cancellation of the much-anticipated visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the city due to the two bomb blasts in Tel Aviv.
They had planned to present Sharon a silver plaque as a mark of their love and affection.
"We are deeply disappointed. However, we do understand his imperative need to rush back to Israel," Solomon Sopher, the chairman of several prominent Jewish synagogues in the city, told PTI.
The Jewish community had organised a huge reception in Sharon's honour on Thursday at a leading hotel, which organisers expected nearly 500 community members to attend, Sopher said.
"We were to give him a hero's welcome for strengthening ties between India and Israel and helping India to strengthen its defence system," Sopher, who also heads the E E E Sasoon School and the Jacob Sasoon Charity, added.
"However, we are happy that he was able to achieve what he had come for - strengthening Indo-Israel ties," he said.
Describing Sharon's visit as a historical one, he lauded the Israeli prime minister for 'daring to come to India'. Sharon is the first Israeli prime minister to visit India after the country forged diplomatic ties with the Jewish country in 1992.
"The Jewish community is also extremely grateful to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for having the courage to invite him," he added.
"We understand his (Sharon's) need to be there (in Israel) in this moment of trauma," Albert Talegawkar, a solicitor and president of the over 200-year-old Gate of Mercy synagogue, said. "We will make arrangements to send the silver plaque to him," he added.
"But in our heart, we know that Sharon will one day visit us and we believe in the adage better late than never," he said.
Lauding Vajpayee's and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani's initiative, he said that the visit has helped India and Israel come closer in the fields of environment, agriculture, defence and in combating terrorism.
According to Elijah Jacob, country manager of the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Sharon's visit had helped Jews in connecting with Israelis. "It has also brought us into focus and informed those who were unaware of our existence here," he said.
The cancellation of the proposed visit had disappointed the children and youth who had been practicing for a cultural show in honour of Sharon.
"The cultural show had been planned to provide a brief glimpse of four classical dances of India, a fashion show displaying the distinct dressing trends of India and a fusion of the Jewish culture and the Indian culture," he said.
"Visits like these have proved beneficial to Jews in India and to the entire Jewish diaspora," he said.
According to John Solomon, an advocate, "Sharon's visit had fuelled our expectations. In fact, it had wiped away our disappointment of nearly 40 years when no sincere effort was being made to officially welcome the Israeli head of state in India."
"In fact, we had never expected such a development in our lifetime," Solomon admitted candidly.
On the protests by members of the Raza Academy and Left Parties, Sopher, "It is a democracy and people are free to voice their opinion as long as it does not hurt anyone's sentiment. The anti-Sharon demonstrators may have their point of view but I believe they should be overjoyed over growing Indo-Israel ties.
"We should be happy that Israel is helping us beef up our defence systems," he said.
More reports from Maharashtra
Read about: Telgi case | Mumbai blasts