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In Tel Aviv, Indian Israelis go wild for Modi
Life in Israel
In Tel Aviv, Indian Israelis go wild for Modi

On Wednesday, thousands of Indian Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to greet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a glitzy, wild welcome for the first premier from their home country to visit the Jewish state.

Brightly coloured Indian saris mingled with jeans and t-shirts — and not a few kippot and religious headscarves — at Wednesday’s event, which began with several Bollywood dance acts and a concert.

In the corner of the room, two 10-foot cardboard cutouts of Modi were thronged by teenagers and adults clamouring for selfies. Indian and Israeli flags were waved furiously by participants, and each act drew thunderous applause when the two countries’ banners were paraded on stage together.

Outside the hall, a billboard urged users to download a special mobile phone app created for the visit to “connect with the prime minister as never before.”

“It gives me chills,” said Naomi Yakub, who immigrated to Israel from India in the early 1970s and is part of a community of some 100,000 Indian Jews living in the country. For the Jewish community in Israel, “a meeting like this we haven’t had in 45 years,” she said.

“We love India, because we were born there and our parents are there,” added her friend Tal Shulamith, now a resident of Be’er Yaakov in central Israel. “It’s very emotional.”

Headlining the performances before the two leaders arrived was Sukhwinder Singh, the Bollywood singer of the Academy Award-winning “Jai Ho” theme song of the 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire.”

With its lyrics translated into Hebrew and posted on a screen, a lavishly dressed Singh also sang a Hindi love song to Israel, gaudily titled “India + Israel = Love.”

But the culmination of the community’s raw elation was reserved for the moment Modi and Netanyahu walked on stage to applause and a solid two-minute standing ovation. The leaders clasped hands triumphantly in the air.

“Do you love India?” a grinning Netanyahu asked the crowd, setting off more vigorous air-punching and frantic cheers.

“Do you love Israel?” he added, receiving an equally enthusiastic response.

Taking the stage after Netanyahu, Modi gave a lengthy speech in Hindi to the crowd of mostly Indian immigrants.

“For the first time in 70 years an Indian PM has got an opportunity to visit Israel,” his office wrote on Twitter in English. “This is a matter of joy.”

 Click here to read the full article in Times of Israel

Thursday, July 06, 2017
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