This is how the Tel Aviv Himalayas were emptied
Their names are Moshe, Arón, Udi, Noa or Peleg and about fifteen days ago they were smoking the Himalayas or at a beach party in Goa or at a meditation course in Rajasthan. In record time they returned to their country to rejoin the ranks and some of them could be at the gates of Gaza today.
Tens of thousands of Israelis of both sexes, as soon as they finish their military service, grab their backpacks and fly to India to get lost and watch the grass grow. This year, when the Festival of Tabernacles had not yet concluded, Hamas' murderous raid broke out on their mobile phone.
“Israel is very small and everyone knows someone who knows a missing person, a hostage or a victim, like a cousin of mine,” one of these young people told an Indian newspaper, already on the way to the airport. “Through our families we quickly realized that it was something much more serious than what was appearing in the media.”
Twelve thousand reservists on their sabbatical year in the country of yoga returned early to take up the rifle
Their reflections surprised people on the terraces and hostels where it seemed they would never leave. Overnight, mountain towns that have earned the nickname Mini Israel or Tel Aviv of the Himalayas, such as Dharamkot, Bhagsu, Kasoli, Manali or Malana, emptied.
For more than twenty years, the majority of its tourists have been Jewish twenty-somethings, active Tsahal reservists. As such, they caught the first bus back to New Delhi, before getting on the first plane to real Tel Aviv. Although Air India cancellations made it difficult.
Their reflexes, commitment and willingness to take up the rifle may have surprised in India, where they are considered hippies, four steps from the Dalai Lama's Dharamsala.
But not in Israel, where everyone knows that the trip to India is nothing more than a rite of passage, especially for young, secular, middle-class Ashkenazi people. A minority, the most active, goes to Latin America. But the majority heads to India, sometimes adding Thailand and Southeast Asia.
Nothing beats the great Indian tour for those who come from a small and fragmented country. There are many who rush through the three months of a tourist visa by stumbling around India, until they get a new Indian visa in Nepal. And start again.
They are retained by a circuit of battle restaurants, but with the menu in Hebrew and where there is no shortage of falafel, hummus, shakshuka, pita bread and Viennese schnitzel. Although they have a reputation for being exhausting: “They haggle more than an Indian aunt at the market.”
In any case, Indian hospitality is as healing as yoga. The “other”, who during the military service – 2 years for them and 2 years and 8 months for them – could be someone hostile, if not threatening, if he was stationed in occupied territory, becomes here someone helpful, source endless mango smoothies and Kingfisher beers, between puffs of indica cannabis. There must be more recommended places to overcome post-traumatic stress, but in India the affordable prices prolong the therapy.
The Indians like to affirm that the Jews were never persecuted in their land
Indians like to claim that Jews were never persecuted in their land, but the love affair between Israel and India is relatively recent. For decades, New Delhi demonstrated much more sympathy for the Palestinian cause than for that of Israel, a country with which it did not establish diplomatic relations until 1992.
Since then, human contact has multiplied, reaching its peak with the rise to power of Narendra Modi, close to Beniamin Netanyahu and no less expert in agitating and capitalizing on the Islamophobic vote. Now India is the first customer of Israeli weapons and tourism is two-way, with Bollywood actors doing their bit.
For more than a year, Israelis no longer have to take detours to fly to the East and consider India as a safe destination, despite attacks, 13 and 15 years ago, in Pune and Bombay, which also had an anti-Semitic angle.
It should be added that India is the country that arouses the most sympathy among Israelis and that, at this time, perhaps nowhere in the world has the reaction been so favorable to Israel, both in the media and on the networks.
And if the Indian government chose Israeli software to spy on the opposition, Israel, in turn, has sold 70% of the port of Haifa to Gautam Adani, the tycoon closest to Modi. This, finally, is importing to Kashmir the expertise Israeli, “for agricultural projects.” It is, clearly, a reciprocated love.
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