Tuesday, March 28, 2023
HomeOpinionIn Jerusalem, I saw a reflection of Ayodhya

In Jerusalem, I saw a reflection of Ayodhya

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Zionism has numerous symbolic parallels with Hindutva as espoused by Savarkar.

Much is similar between the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.

During my first visit to Israel last week, I looked at the Wailing Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem—as it is famously known—that stands testimony to centuries of mayhem, murder and massacre.

As I watched devout Jews gather at this wall that originally held the Second Temple, I saw tears rolling down many a face and still others kissing the wall or placing their petitions in Hebrew at the revered site.

The Temple was mercilessly burned down in the Roman invasion of 70 AD. The amalgam of faith and mourning brought to my mind fleeting images of Ayodhya, where I have witnessed many a devout Hindu shed tears upon seeing an idol of their God Ram Lalla sitting hostage-like in a barricaded, heavily-secured, makeshift tent in the holy city believed to be the site of his birth.

I was part of a delegation of Indians on a visit to Israel, organised at the behest of Dana Kursh, Consulate-General of Israel in South India.

The recorded history of the ‘Holy Land’ attests to the fact that the region was never quiet and peaceful.

Straddling the divide between Asia and Africa, it has been the battleground for successive waves of conquerors and marauders who were anxious to control strategic trade routes.

With monstrous regularity, control swung from one victor to the next, leaving the land wailing in misery. Many Indians can well empathise with the people of Jerusalem, considering our own long troubled history of witnessing invasion and destruction.

Also read: Aurangzeb protected more Hindu temples than he destroyed, says historian Audrey Truschke

As Simon Sebag Montefiore notes in his book Jerusalem: The Biography: “Jerusalem is the House of One God, the capital of two peoples, the temple of three religions and she is the only city to exist twice—in heaven and on earth.” The Abrahamic faiths propounded by Moses, Jesus and Muhammad originated here, but it is death that has been a constant companion in Jerusalem.

English writer Aldous Huxley called it ‘the slaughterhouse of the religions’.

This palimpsest that Jerusalem presented also instantly reminded me of our own ‘City of Light’: Varanasi. With references to it appearing in ancient Indic texts such as Rig Veda, Varanasi has not just been the holiest of cities for Hindus, it is also the cradle of Buddhism and the birthplace of four Jain tirthankaras.

Though the destruction Varanasi witnessed was not as widespread as that of Jerusalem and its Holy Temple, its Vishwanath temple bore the brunt of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s army. (A Short history of Aurangzeb, by Jadunath Sarkar).

After voting against the creation of Israel in 1947, India refrained from establishing full diplomatic relations with the nation until 1992.

New Delhi even voted in favour of Zionism being condemned as a form of racism.

But few in India understand what political Zionism as propounded by Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) really was. It defined identity in a post-Holocaust world for traumatised Jews and has numerous symbolic parallels with Hindutva as espoused by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

For the Jews—scattered across the world and exiled from their land for over 18 centuries—ethnic nationalism in the form of Zionism was a powerful pivot. Close to home, Savarkar had bemoaned the systematic collapse of Hindu supremacy, starting from the Battles of Tarain (1191-1192) until the end of the British occupation. It led to a cultural—rather than geographical—dispossession. The non-theological, political tool of Hindutva was the adhesive that could seamlessly weld Indic communities—and bring about political and cultural unity.

Also read: Read this before deciding whether Savarkar was a British stooge or strategic nationalist

A vocal advocate of the Zionist cause, Savarkar wrote in his 1923 treatise Hindutva that the Holy Land of Arabian Muslims was in Arabia, not Palestine and ‘the whole of Palestine ought to have been resorted to the Jews.’

Differing with the Gandhian and Nehruvian doctrine of a divided Palestine to secure the goodwill of Muslim states, he stated: “If the Zionists’ dreams were realized, if Palestine became a Jewish state, it would gladden us almost as much as our Jewish friends.”

On ‘moral as well as political grounds’, he asserted, India must support a Jewish state.

Little wonder then that we see a resurrection of India-Israel ties under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As Israeli newspaper Haaretz put it: “Relations between Israel and India tend to grow stronger when…India experiences a rightward shift…in leadership”.

Interestingly, contrary to misgivings about the two philosophies, both Zionism and Hindutva believe in pluralism and peaceful co-existence on equal terms with minorities.

Neither Herzl nor Savarkar advocated the dispossession of the civil and political rights of minority communities. Herzl is rightly revered as a national hero with his remains interred at the Mount of Herzl in Jerusalem.

But Savarkar remains a reviled and controversial figure in India even today, 15 years after his portrait was hung in the central hall of Parliament.

Also read:  Surprise: Nehru library also has the best collection of RSS’s Hedgewar, Savarkar papers

There is a new momentum in the India-Israel relationship following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2017 visit to the country—the first ever by an Indian premier. The personal rapport that Modi built with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu has deepened India’s engagement in areas such as technology, agriculture, biotechnology, entrepreneurship, waste recycling, oil and natural gas and space technology, in addition to traditional defence collaborations.

The warmth and love we saw for India among ordinary Israelis seemed like the ‘Version 2.0’ as it were of the affection that Soviet Russians showered on the Indian people and their Bollywood stars.

Former Israeli President and Prime Minister, Shimon Peres once said: “In Israel, a land lacking in natural resources, we learned to appreciate our greatest national advantage: our minds. Through creativity and innovation, we transformed barren deserts into flourishing fields and pioneered new frontiers in science and technology.”

It is this advantage, sans historical baggage, that can form the basis of a lasting bond between India and Israel—two historically and culturally similar nations facing similar challenges.

The author is a Bengaluru-based author/historian and political analyst.

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  1. To arun the one whose comment is second in the list, I don’t know if you gonna read this or not but i have to answer your crap comment- i hate extremism in any form even of it is hindutva. You said we all were in peace always before hindutva word came in our life and it is distroying communal harmony in our country, you think you were at peace, i think i was at peace but do you know what all happened in kerala, bengal, j&k, tamilnadu and assam? How millions of hindus got converted by luring them or forcefully, how many muslim youth joined terrorism in the name of religion & massacred innocents? Do you know how conversion factory down to south works? Do you know how land grabbing happens of poor hindus? Do you know how girls are lured and than converted to islam, but when muslim girl gets marries to non muslim either both are killed or pressured to get converted, how everytime a muslim criminal is not shamed by media and politicians publicly in the name of religion but a hindu is on the bases of there caste, how come in bengal 2 villges recently faced riots and in that riots muslim mob asked hindu to vacate the village will r get converted or face consequences and no one comes in there support? See i dont blame whole religion never 90% muslims of this world specially indian muslims are very peaceful and respects other religion as well but 10% of global 2 billion muslims that is 200 fucking million are not peaceful and they want every other religion- infidels to die, which is wrong and should be named shamed which they do in the name of there religion and that is what china is doing by changing uyghur muslims belief and basic kuran education and changing violent verses of hadids and making them re-educate themselves with other than there religion.

    • “Disha patel” or whatever your real name is, first you dont have an inkling of what is going on in India. You are merely spouting the utter lies that the RSS has been propagating against minorities. Hindutva was an ideology created by the RSS. It has got nothing to do with Hinduism. They created the concept of “Hindutva” so that they could establish power over the masses and drive out all minorities. Savarkar created his own ideologies and brainwashed many innocent young hindus. Their tall claims of “harmony” and “equality” are all eyewash. It is pity that people like you have been taken in by the propaganda of the RSS. This article itself is hilarious. The author merely panders to the likes of Subramanian Swamy and his ilk. Nobody can draw parallels with Hindutva and Zionism. Likewise, Ayodhya and Jerusalem have nothing in common.

  2. Indians need to realise that Israel is a good friend and this friendship will always be fruitful. A very good decision by the Modi government to make strong relations with this great nation.

  3. What a sad article. Ethnic nationalism is a sad political construct and not a bright idea, more so in a incredibly plural society like India. Ayodhya is nothing like Jerusalem either. For long, it was an afterthought of a religious place in a long list of important Hindu religious places before the Babri Masjid demolition happened. I find it amusing that people write about Hindutva as the ‘adhesive’ to bring about political and cultural unity. Well, we have been quite happily united politically and culturally precisely because of the absence of a Hindutva narrative for so many decades after independence. It is this infusion of Hindutva and the attempt to force-fit some particular socio-cultural norms that is likely to lead to ethnic problems.

  4. Well said but we all INDIANs know the development speed of UPA era and NDA era.We elect a government so that they can do development of our country ,what matters is the speed of development. Now everyone can compare between two governments.

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