The Be’er-Sheva Branch of the Indian-Jewish Immigrant Union (founded 1983) holds Indian social and cultural events and provides scholarships to former Indian/Pakistani students. The largest community of “Bene Israel” (lit., children of Israel) in the State of Israel resides in Be’er-Sheva. They were also known in urban India as the “Native Jew Caste,” where they usually served as clerks and in rural India as the “Shanwar Telis” (lit., Saturday oilmen, ironically, since their primary occupation was pressing oil, which they refused to do on the Jewish Sabbath, on Saturdays). They consider themselves to be remnants of the biblical “ten lost tribes,” and came to Be’er-Sheva from New Delhi, Mumbai, Cochin, Karachi (now part of Pakistan), etc. and most speak Marathi. Typically, their surnames were created from the name of the place in which they first resided with the addition of the suffix ‘kar’ (e.g. Wakrulkar = from the village of Wakrul). The Indian welfare association is “Tiferet Yeshu’ah” (lit., the glory of redemption).
Prof. Shalva Weil is an anthropologist doing research at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, specializing in Indian Jewry. She is also Founder and Chairperson of the Israel-India Cultural Association – 02-588-2100.
An Indian community synagogue in Be’er-Sheva, “Magen Avraham” (lit., Abraham’s shield) is located in the Daled neighborhood.
“Little India” restaurant & take-away, with authentic (kosher) Indian food and atmosphere, is located just above the BGU Campus at 15 Ringelbloom St. – 08-648-9801, http://www.bgu.co.il/littleindia.
Classical and popular Indian dance classes are available at various community centers via “Kivunim” – 08-6290069, http://www.kivunim7.co.il, mostly taught by members of the Avraham family, professional Indian dancers. Sarit Avraham has an Indian performing dance troupe called “Indian Bollydance” – 054-4511081, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many professional, English-speaking Indian-Christian caregivers are regularly employed in Be’er-Sheva and give loving care to our elders and disabled family members. We are most grateful for their devoted assistance. Every year at the beginning of September, they celebrate their traditional Indian holiday, Onam, by creating lovely mandalas out of flower petals, for example: