The Jews of Cochin, in India and Israel

The Jews of Cochin, a port city in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, trace their history to the time of King Solomon, although most scholars believe Jews did not arrive there at least until the 1st century CE. Today, only about 40 Jews remain in Kerala, but their descendants in Israel are keeping their customs alive. Bala Menon writes:

Recorded history shows that Jews were present in Kerala in 849 CE: Hebrew names were engraved on copper plates granted by a Kerala Hindu king . . . to Syrian Christian settlers. . . . The Jews signed these . . . plates as witnesses. . . .

In 1000 CE, the emperor of Kerala . . . issued two copper plates to a Jewish merchant [by the name of] Issappu Irrappan (Joseph Rabban), believed to be of Yemenite descent. The plates conferred on the Jewish community 72 proprietary rights equivalent to those held by the . . . the nobles of Malabar.

Today, there are several flourishing Cochini moshavim [semi-collective farming communities] in Israel. . . . One, Mesilat Tsion, boasts signs like Reḥov Cochin and Reḥov Malabar (reḥov means “street” in Hebrew) dating to the early 1950s. . . . Moshav Nevatim also boasts a beautiful Cochini synagogue. The interior is a copy of the Kadavumbhagam synagogue [in Kerala] and the holy ark and the Torah scrolls were all brought from various synagogues in Cochin.

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Read more at Asian Jewish Life

More about: India, Indian Jewry, Israel, Jewish history, Jewish World, Moshav

 

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America