History of the Jews in Nepal

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The history of the Jews in Nepal refers to the involvement of Jews in the history of Nepal. It includes the role of Jewish people and Israelis who have lived or worked in the nation of Nepal during its modern history.

Notable Jews and Nepal[edit]

The French Jewish scholar Sylvain Lévi visited Nepal in 1898 and published a three-volume historical study (Le Népal: Étude historique d’un royaume hindou, 1905-1908), considered the authoritative Western account of the country for most of the 20th century.[1] As a student of both Jewish and South Asian cultures, Levi argued against the anti-Semitic and dichotomous Aryanist trend in Indology of the time.[2]

The Hong Kong-based Jewish Kadoorie family has been involved with philanthropy in Nepal (as elsewhere in Asia), particularly serving Gurkha communities, and Horace Kadoorie was awarded the Order of Gorkha Dakshina Bahu (First Class) by the Nepalese government.[3][4][5]

Present[edit]

According to the 2011 Census of Nepal, there is no Jewish community of native Nepalese people.[6] The census does not include foreign residents such as Israeli diplomats and the staff of Chabad houses[7] nor does it include Jews and Israelis who have been drawn to visit or live in Nepal in order to study and practice Buddhism and Hinduism[8][9] since the early 1960s as part of a worldwide phenomenon among Jews noted by scholars[10][11] and those who have followed such a path to Nepal.[12][13][14] While researcher Eliyahu Birnbaum claims that "there was never a Jewish community in Nepal, not in the past and not in the present"[7] yet simultaneously Birnbaum estimated that each year the number of Israeli tourists to Nepal is approximately 20,000, and many of them stay for long periods, such that the Hebrew language is spoken in many streets of Kathmandu and elsewhere; in that sense, according to Birnbaum's view, there is a vibrant Jewish tourist community in Nepal.[7][15][16] Nepal has also attracted Israeli documentary filmmakers exploring these phenomena.[17]

Israelis and Nepal[edit]

Diplomatic relations[edit]

Nepal established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1960.[18]

Tourism[edit]

In recent decades, Nepal is an increasingly popular destination for Israeli backpackers and tourists.[19][20]

In 2012, an Israeli climber abandoned his dream of reaching the summit of Mount Everest in order to save the life of a climber from Turkey.[21][22]

A three kilometer hiking trail in the Himalayas was named the Israel Trail after the Jewish state.[23]

Cultural life[edit]

In 1986, the Israeli embassy in the Thamel section of Katmandu started the tradition of holding a Passover Seder for Israeli travelers.[24][25][26][27]

Israeli colleges have given scholarships to students from Nepal.[28][29] There is an Israeli Film Festival in Kathmandu.[30]

In 2013, an Israeli artist crafted a monument which consisted of rocks from the lowest place on Earth, the Dead Sea, and placed them on the base camp of Mount Everest (Mount Everest is on the Nepal and Tibet/China border), the highest place on Earth; in addition, rocks from Everest were taken to the Dead Sea.[31] Israel and Nepal issued a joint postage stamp with the theme of world's highest and lowest places, to celebrate fifty years of friendship between the two nations, in 2012.[32][33]

An Israeli-based humanitarian organization Tevel b’Tzedek ("[the] earth in justice") sponsors young Israelis to go to countries like Nepal to understand global poverty by making a contribution towards improving the lives of Nepalese such as at the village of Mahadev Besi west of Kathmandu.[34][35][36]

Security issues[edit]

The relevant U.S. State Department office has found Anti-Semitism to be "not an issue of any significance" in Nepal,[37] and has reported no Anti-Semitic acts in annual reports on the country.[38]

Haaretz reported in 2013 that an Iranian suspected of planning terror attack on the Israeli embassy was arrested by embassy security personnel and handed over to the police in Katmandu, Nepal.[39]

The Times of India reported in 2014 that Indian security forces had foiled a plot by the Indian Mujahideen to kidnap Jewish tourists in Nepal to be used in exchange for the female Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui held in a US jail, and that the organization had rented a hiding place in the hills of Nepal to hold their hostages captive.[40][41]

Nepali citizens have been targeted by Islamic groups such as Ansar al-Sunna because they were seen as "fighting the Muslims and serving the Jews and the Christians...believing in Buddha as their God."[42]

Religious life[edit]

Spiritual quest[edit]

Author Daniel Gordis has noted that "...combined with the antipathy to religious ritual that many Israelis have inherited from that early generation of founding Zionists, leads many of them to search for spiritual fulfillment in Nepal or India or in a variety of other religious or non-religious traditions."[43] Gordis also notes that "Ashrams in Nepal and India are filled with young Jewish people, mostly American and Israeli."[44]

Through the Himalayas, Nepal shares a border with Tibet, a nation occupied by the People's Republic of China that has suppressed the rights of Buddhists. That has led to Nepal becoming a center for the Dalai Lama the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists that in turn has attracted Jewish followers of the Dalai Lama joining Buddhist monasteries or practicing Buddhism in Nepal.[45][46][47]

Passover celebrations[edit]

Since 1999, the Hasidic international Jewish outreach-oriented Chabad organization continued hosting annual Passover Seders that had previously been hosted by the Israeli embassy.

By 2006, the annual Passover seder sponsored by Chabad hosted 1,500 participants. It has been called the "world's largest seder"[48] with a report of hundreds of Israeli travelers celebrating Passover in Nepal, requiring 1,100 pounds of Matzo in 2012, according to The Atlantic magazine.[49] In 2014 a strike by Israeli foreign ministry workers created difficulty, preventing a shipping-container from reaching the 1,700-person seder.[50]

Religious organizations[edit]

In 1999 the first Chabad house in Katmandu was opened by Chabad, led by Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz, the chief shaliach ("emissary") in Nepal. A second Chabad house was opened in the city of Pokhara in November 2007, and a third in Manang in April 2014.[51]

In 2012, the Israeli Channel 2 broadcast Kathmandu, depicting a fictionalization of the early years of the Chabad house in that city.[15]

Conversion center[edit]

It is planned that members of the Bnei Menashe community in neighboring India be formally converted to Judaism at Shavei Israel centers in Nepal, due to the difficulties with anti-conversion laws in India.[52]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Riccardi, Theodore. Book Reviews—South Asia. "Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley. By Mary Shepherd Slusser.". The Journal of Asian Studies 44 (2): 445. doi:10.2307/2055986. 
  2. ^ Strenski, Ivan (1997). "Sylvain Lévi: Maus's "Second Uncle". Durkheim and the Jews of France. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press. pp. 116–148. ISBN 0226777359. 
  3. ^ Olds, Sally Wendkos (2002). A balcony in Nepal : glimpses of a Himalayan village. San Jose [Calif.]: ASJA Press. p. 165. ISBN 0595240275. 
  4. ^ Dixit, Kunda (4 - 10 April 2014). "Kadoorie in the land of Gurkhas". Nepali Times (701). 
  5. ^ "Horace Kadoorie, Philanthropist, 92". New York Times. 26 April 1995. 
  6. ^ Central Bureau of Statistics of Nepal: National Population and Housing Census 2011., p. 142
  7. ^ a b c Birnbaum, Eliyahu. "Nepal: the Land Where Time Stopped (in Hebrew)". Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  8. ^ Frankel, Ellen (01/24/2013). "5 Reasons Jews Gravitate Toward Buddhism". The Huffington POst. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  9. ^ Silverstein, Marilyn. "Scholar focuses a lens on the Jewish-Buddhist interface". bildnercenter.rutgers.edu. Bildner Center, Rutgers University / New Jersey Jewish News, 9/29/05 [PDF]. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  10. ^ Gordis, Daniel (Jun 17, 2010). Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 9780471789628. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  11. ^ Gordis, Daniel (Oct 5, 1999). Becoming a Jewish parent: how to explore spirituality and tradition with your children. Harmony Books. p. 45. ISBN 0609604082. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Das, Lama Surya (1997). Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment. New York, NY, USA: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. p. 33. ISBN 0553066951. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  13. ^ Meston, Daja Wengchuk; Ansberry, Clare (2007). Comes the Peace: My Journey to Forgiveness. New York NY, USA: Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 1416539034. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Govinda, Anagarika Brahmacar (2007). The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda: Living Wisdom from a Modern Tibetan Master. Wheaton, IL, USA: Quest Books - Theosophical Publishing House. p. ix. ISBN 0835608549. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Jun 9, 2012, DEBORAH DANAN, Jerusalem Post, Kindness and kinship in Kathmandu: A television show about a real-life Chabad house in Nepal thrusts a Lubavitcher couple into the spotlight, Accessed June 28, 2014, "Together with her husband, Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz, the couple has returned to Israel for their summer furlough during Nepal’s low season ...Every year, some 20,000 Israeli backpackers travel to Nepal, mostly to embark on treks in the Everest and Annapurna mountain ranges...."
  16. ^ Danan, Deborah (09/06/2012). "Kindness and kinship in Kathmandu". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  17. ^ Jewish Journal, Shabbat in Nepal, Accessed June 28, 2014, "... I am traveling in Nepal to film two documentaries about poverty-stricken children and the hope they bring to many. ... almost everyone I am traveling with is Jewish. ..."
  18. ^ Alok Tumbahangphey (April 7, 2006). "Passover in the Hindu kingdom". Nepali Times. Archived from the original on July 17, 2011. 
  19. ^ June 3, 2013, Ahron Bregman, Fathom Journal, Israel and the Territories, Accessed June 28, 2014, "...Then came the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation in 1987. It caught me when I was travelling in Kathmandu, Nepal. ..."
  20. ^ September 28, 2012, Israel National News, Kathmandu to Host 'World's Highest Sukkah' Contest, Accessed June 22, 2014
  21. ^ Chana Ya'ar, May 24, 2012, Israel National News, Israeli Climber Ditches Everest to Save Turkish Climber's Life: Official relations between Turkey and Israel may be down in the dumps, but atop the Himalayas, two men formed a bond that may last forever, Accessed June 22, 2014
  22. ^ July 28, 2013, Ainav Weisberg, Jerusalem Online, Mother dies in Nepal, son left alone unknowing: A single mother and her 12 year old son went traveling, the mother died of cardiac arrest in a hospital and her son was left alone and unknowing, only finding on return home, Accessed June 22, 2014
  23. ^ Itamar Eichner of YNetNews, Israeli American Council, Himalayas get 'Israel Trail': Israeli Embassy in Nepal initiates 3-kilometer walkway for hikers on Asian mountain range named after Jewish state, Accessed June 28, 2014
  24. ^ Rabbi Levi Brackman (April 13, 2006). "Nepal: 1,500 Israelis take part in Seder". YNet News. 
  25. ^ April 14, 2014, Israel National News, Volunteers Save Kathmandu Seder, Accessed June 22, 2014, "...Chabad house, which is expecting over 1,000 people for Monday night's seder..."
  26. ^ March 24, 2014, Israel National News, Will Strike Keep Matzah from Kathmandu?, Accessed June 22, 2014
  27. ^ April 15, 2014, Global Post, From Kathmandu to Jerusalem, how Jews around the world are celebrating Passover, Accessed June 28, 2014
  28. ^ August 13, 2011, Israel National News, Nepalese Students Win Scholarship to Israel College, Accessed June 22, 2014
  29. ^ 2014-04-30, My Republica, 350 more students to be trained in Israel, Accessed June 22, 2014
  30. ^ June 18, 2014, Nepal News, 9th Israeli Film Festival to be observed in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Accessed June 28, 2014, "..films have become a medium to represent Israel, its people, languages, culture, values and traditions to its audiences in Nepal...."
  31. ^ Viva Sarah Press, May 19, 2013, Israel 21c News, A monument made from rocks of the Dead Sea is set up at Mount Everest base to foster friendship between the lowest and highest places on earth, Accessed June 22, 2014
  32. ^ September 7, 2012, BBC News, Nepal and Israel issue joint Everest and Dead Sea stamp: The stamp is intended to celebrate more than half a century of close ties: Nepal and Israel have released a joint stamp depicting the highest and the lowest places on earth – Mount Everest and the Dead Sea, Accessed June 28, 2014
  33. ^ September 19, 2012, Jewish Tribune, Nepal and Israel Celebrate 52 years of co-operation, Accessed June 28, 2014
  34. ^ Schoffman, Stuart (April 23, 2014). "Lessons of Nepal: What Can Jewish Youth Teach the People of Mahadev Besi?". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  35. ^ Lazarus, David (February 7, 2014). "Israeli NGO makes Jewish connection with Nepal". The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  36. ^ Schusterman Foundation/UJA Federation of New York/Rochlin Family Foundation. "Tevel B'Tzedek: Promoting Tikkun Olam in Nepal". www.schusterman.org. Schusterman Foundation-Israel. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  37. ^ "Report on Global Anti-Semitism". U.S. Department of State. 5 January 2005. 
  38. ^ "2012 Human Rights Reports: Nepal". U.S. Department of State. 19 April 2013. 
  39. ^ Haaretz Staff (Apr. 23, 2013). "Iranian suspected of planning terror attack on Israeli embassy arrested in Nepal: Man is detained by Israeli security staff and found to be in possession of a counterfeit Israeli passport.". Haaretz. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  40. ^ Tiwary, Deeptiman (Mar 24, 2014). "IM skipped return to Pak for mission to kidnap Jews". The Times of India. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  41. ^ PTI - New Delhi (27 February 2014). "IM Plotted to Kidnap Jews to Bargain for Al-Qaeda Woman: NIA". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  42. ^ Sijapati, Megan Adamson (2011). Islamic Revival in Nepal: Religion and a New Nation. New York, NY, USA: Routledge. p. 59. ISBN 9780415618748. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  43. ^ Gordis, Daniel (Jun 17, 2010). Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 9780471789628. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  44. ^ Gordis, Daniel (Oct 5, 1999). Becoming a Jewish parent: how to explore spirituality and tradition with your children. Harmony Books. p. 45. ISBN 0609604082. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  45. ^ Das, Lama Surya (1997). Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment. New York, NY, USA: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. p. 33. ISBN 0553066951. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  46. ^ Meston, Daja Wengchuk; Ansberry, Clare (2007). Comes the Peace: My Journey to Forgiveness. New York NY, USA: Simon & Schuster, Inc. ISBN 1416539034. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  47. ^ Govinda, Anagarika Brahmacar (2007). The Lost Teachings of Lama Govinda: Living Wisdom from a Modern Tibetan Master. Wheaton, IL, USA: Quest Books - Theosophical Publishing House. p. ix. ISBN 0835608549. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  48. ^ Heilman, Samuel C.; Friedman, Menachem M. (2010). The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press. p. 9. ISBN 9780691154428. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  49. ^ AMY YEE, The Atlantic, April 12, 2012, 1,100 Pounds of Matzo in Kathmandu: Welcome to the World's Largest Seder, Accessed June 28, 2014, "...In what has become an annual tradition, hundreds of Israeli travelers gather in Nepal to celebrate Passover – with plenty of kosher wine...."
  50. ^ April 8, 2014, Jewish Tribune, Nepal Chabad without Matzah due to Israeli Foreign Military Strike, Accessed June 28, 2014, "...shipping container filled with Passover for a planned 1,700-person seder in Katmandu, Nepal, remains stuck in India...."
  51. ^ "Chazaka: Third Chabad House in Nepal". Shturem. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  52. ^ Itamar Eichner (10 January 2010), "Members of Bnei Menashe to make aliyah", Y Net News