In the recent years the relationship between India and Israel has gone from a position of strength to strength.

India and Israel are strategic partners. India announced its recognition of Israel on September 17, 1950. In the recent years the relationship between India and Israel has gone from a position of strength to strength. Here it important to mention Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Indian War Cemetery in Haifa, Israel back in July, 2017. As a symbolic gesture of friendship with Israel, the iconic Teen Murti Chowk was renamed as Teen Murti – Haifa Chowk during the visit of the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back in January, 2018. In August 2020, India and Israel signed a Cultural Exchange Programme (for 2020-23) in August 2020 to facilitate bilateral cultural exchanges spanning all fields of art and culture, including youth exchanges. “We have quite an extensive cultural exchange between our two countries. Now, the thing about all cultural exchanges is that you want to bring people together. But, we had been greatly restricted by the pandemic over the last couple of years. Now, we are getting into the phase of reenergizing the Cultural Exchange Programme and putting Oxygen into it,” explains Naor Gilon, Ambassador of Israel to India.
Gilon, a career diplomat with wide and varied experience of over 30 years, feels enthused by the opportunities for quality education available to Indian students in Israel. “We have about one thousand Indian students in Israel. Many of them are on scholarships. In the past we have had unique scholarships for Indian students and it continues till date. Most of the opportunities for scholarship in Israel are based on excellence. And I can tell you that the biggest foreign student group in Israel is the Indian and most of them are on scholarships due to excellence,” reveals Ambassador Gilon who was previously the Ambassador of Israel to the Netherlands. He has represented Israel at various leading international forums other than serving as an advisor to three Israeli Prime Ministers. He holds an MA in International Relations from Corvinus University of Budapest and a BA in Political Science from TeI Aviv University.

Murals of Sulochna and Pramila at Connaught Place.

Marking the occasion of 30 years of Israel-India diplomatic relations, the Embassy of Israel in India unveiled the murals of three remarkable Indian-Jewish actresses at Connaught Place, New Delhi in presence of Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture. “This year we mark the 30 years of Israel-India diplomatic relations. We are happy to pay tribute to the deep-rooted cultural relations between our nations. As a part of the celebrations, we have honored three prominent Indian-Jewish actresses who made a mark in the Indian cinematic history,” rejoices Ambassador Gilon. The actresses are Esther Victoria Abraham, popularly known as Pramila (hailing from the Baghdadi-Jewish community in Calcutta, she starred in about 30 films including ‘Ulti Ganga,’ ‘Basant,’ and ‘Jungle King’), Florence Ezekiel, popularly known as Nadira (born in a Baghdadi-Jewish family, she is best remembered for her performances in films during the 1950s and 1960s such as ‘Shree 420,’ ‘Pakeezah,’ and ‘Julie’), and Ruby Myers, popularly known as Sulochna (hailing from a Baghdadi Jewish family, she went on to star in several movies like ‘Typist Girl,’ ‘Balidaan,’ ‘Cinema Queen,’ and ‘Madhuri’).
As part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, a student film festival called ‘Clapstick’ was recently organized as collaboration between SRFTI and Israeli colleges with focus on films from Israel. Also, a new policy has been launched this year to encourage foreign productions to come to Israel. As part of it, a foreign production that comes to shoot in Israel will be reimbursed for the production costs of the film in the amount of 25%. This procedure is a special collaboration of the Ministries of Culture & Sports, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Economy and Tourism. The Embassy of Israel in India also collaborated with Indian designer Sahil Kochhar to showcase a special collection for both men and women inspired by landscapes of Israel. “This is another important project that the Israeli Embassy in India is leading this year to further strengthen the growing partnership and strong friendship between our two nations. The designer came up with the concept of involving local talent from Israel for the shoot. The idea was to have inclusion and local faces telling their stories. It was very important for us to involve as many Israelis as possible in this project,” recounts Ambassador Gion.
In the field of children literature, the Embassy of Israel has undertaken an important task of translation of Israeli children books into Hindi. “Part of ‘Celebrate the girl child’ series developed to inspire girls and parents to give girls equal love and opportunities to grow, ‘Ria’s Father Goes to Australia’ is a fun filled story with loads of drama that children love happening to them. ‘Rajkumari Usha,’ which is also a part of the ‘Celebrate the girl child’ series, is about a princess who loves to paint. ‘Dobara Nani Dobara’ is a universal story of all the grandmothers’ love for the grand children. ‘Pyar ka Pankh’ is about a peacock who tries to impress a peahen. All the sale proceeds go to a girl child’s education. Since we have no government or institutional grant of any kind we need book sales for our effort to educate and build literacy among unprivileged children,” explains Ambassador Gilon.
The International Day of Yoga is celebrated with great enthusiasm every year in Israel. Yoga and Ayurveda are very popular in Israel and the various events that are held round the year enjoy healthy participation of the people. Also, the Indian Cultural Centre in Tel Aviv started functioning in January 2020. It regularly organizes events to promote cultural ties. Ambassador Naor Gilon opines that food diplomacy has an important role to play in boosting the cultural ties between India and Israel. Agriculture is also high on the agenda with the aim of deepening Israel-India strategic partnership. Two Israeli experts recently came on an official visit to India. The two experts were sent to India by MASHAV- Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel. “This was part of a series of visits that MASHAV organizes to India as agriculture is a significant pillar of Israel-India growing partnership. Currently we have 29 fully-active Indo-Israel Centres of Excellence across India, which are benefiting millions of Indian farmers on a daily basis. We hope to continue organizing such visits in future that will further prove beneficial for local farmers,” sums up Ambassador Gilon.