Monday, January 28, 2019

Shalom, a night to remember!

For probably the first time, in Kochi, Christians felicitated Jews at an event called ‘A Night To Honour Israel’

Photos: the girl's choir; the Jews of Kochi 

By Shevlin Sebastian

The photo which social worker Abe Thomas Oommen of Kochi saw in the newspaper was heart-warming. It was of Dana Kursh, the Bangalore-based Israeli Consulate General, in charge of South India, standing on a truck along with two fellow officers, all holding cartons of drinking water bottles.

They were arranging to send relief supplies to Kerala during the floods a few months ago. “It touched my heart,” says Abe. “This must have been the first initiative by a foreign embassy to support Kerala. I felt the need to do something.”

And that wish came to fruition on January 20, when Abe and a few friends arranged ‘A Night To Honour Israel’, which was supported by 20 Protestant churches.

Abe says that Christians have not felicitated Jews in such a manner even though there have been close links for a long time. “Yes, this is the first time this has happened in Kerala,” says Josephhai Sam Abraham, a leader of the Jewish community.

Says Fr. Paul Karedan, spokesperson of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, “Though the Jewish community is very small in Kerala we have had cordial relations for a long time. But it is also a fact that we have not had many interactions.”

Even though, as Abe says, Jews are at the root of the Christian faith. “Jesus Christ was a Jew,” he says. “All the apostles were Jews. The prominent people in our faith, like Abraham, Joseph and Jacob have their roots in Judaism.”

Out of the 14 Jewish families living in and around Kochi, members from eight families attended. “The purpose was to remember and celebrate what the Jews have contributed to Kerala,” says Abe.

The chief guest was Ariel Seidman, the Deputy Consular General for the Israel Consulate in Bangalore. Among the 700 people present, there were judges, police officers, church leaders, businessmen, artists and writers.

During the programme, several Hebrew songs were sung by members of church choirs and also a dance to the tune of the evergreen Jewish folk song, ‘Hava Nagila’.

Abe’s wife, Deepa, a psychologist, who knows a bit of Hebrew provided the training over a period of one month. Incidentally, when a group of children sang, they wore white T-shirts with the line, ‘I Stand With Israel’ next to an image of the Star of David.

Then the Jews were presented with a hand-painted plaque with the word ‘Shalom’ written in Hebrew and English (‘Shalom’ means peace and this is how the Jews greet each other when they meet for the first time). The hand design was done by young artist Meghna Girish.

The Jews were very happy. “It was a unique experience,” says Josephhai Sam Abraham. “I was very much taken up by the perfect singing of the Hebrew songs by the children as well as the choir members.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)

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