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.

Read more at Asian Jewish Life

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

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship