|December 2012 Chanukah||
The Israeli Chanukah Postage Stamp
By Jay Levinson
The Chanukah stamp issued by Israel on 5 November 2012 is very different. The stamp is part of a joint issue with India commemorating twenty years of ambassadorial exchanges between the two countries. Mutual recognition was declared in 1950, but only a symbolic Israeli consular office was opened in Bombay. The joint issue was decided upon between the two countries in the spirit of twenty years of cooperation. The Israeli stamp features a Chanukah menorah that originated with the Indian Jewish community; the Indian stamp features a local theme.
The history of Indian Jews goes back centuries. There is reason to believe that Jews might well have been present, albeit not in large numbers, in ancient times. Nathan Katz, a professor in Florida, says it is very plausible that Jews came to Cochin following the destruction of the Second Temple. In any event there is Indian documentation showing a Jewish presence in the 9th century and a Jewish tombstone from the 12th century.
A much larger community took root much later, when Jews became part of a trading route run primarily by Iraqi co-religionists who used overland routes to bring back goods from the Orient. Thus, the Indian Jewish community had three main sources: Cochin Jews, Bene Israel (a separate Jewish Indian community), and Baghdadis.
Although the Indian Jewish community once numbered as many as 30 thousand (an inexact estimation), the vast majority has emigrated.
As Jaideep Sarkar, the Ambassador-designate of India, explains, relations between Israel and India became possible after the Cold War ended and the People's Republic of China recognized Israel. According to Professor Katz this was part of a wider effort by India to open its economy to world trade.
Tourism is a significant economic factor in India. This year 40,000 Israelis will be visiting India. The Indians are hoping that the joint issue will encourage more Israelis to come to the country. Another event is the attendance at the issuing ceremony of Ms. Manjula Prasher, Secretary and Director General of India Post, who will be negotiating increased bilateral postal cooperation.
The Israeli stamp is designed by Aylon Bhinjekar Samson based on the menorah from India.
from the December 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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