Of miracles and menorahs

By Simran Ahuja| Express News Service | Published: 31st December 2019 06:42 AM
Ariel Seidman and his wife, Linoy, with the menorah. (Photo | Nagaraja Gadekal, EPS)

BENGALURU: This Sunday proved to be a special one for the Consulate General of Israel to South India. Not only did Israeli diplomats and residents here get to celebrate the eighth and last day Hanukkah with fervour and in grandeur, but for the first time in Bengaluru, they also got to do so in an Israeli hotel. Hosted in collaboration with The Den Hotel, Bengaluru, the celebration was held at Layla, an Israeli restaurant in the city which gets its name from the Hebrew word for ‘night’. True to the spirit of the Israeli festival of lights, the party kicked off just as day turned to dusk, with the twinkling lights of the city as the perfect backdrop.

One of the highlights of Hanukkah – which celebrates the miracle of a small amount of oil providing light for eight days – is lighting the eight candles of the Israeli diya, called the ‘Hanukkiah’, which are placed in the candlestand known as Menorah. The consulate’s celebration too had a candle lighting by Dana Kursh, Consul General of Israel to South India, Ariel Seidman, Deputy Consul General of Israel to South India, and other dignitaries. “There’s never been anti-Semitism in India. As Israeli diplomats here, we have a special connection and feel very welcome here,” said Seidman, while referring to a recent attack at a synagogue in New York.

And since miracles are at the core of this festival, Kursh also highlighted the many moments she was thankful for. “I got to spend half my Hanukkah in Israel, where I got to join Intel India’s Country Head Nivruti Rai for a day and a half during her trip there. I spent the other half here. For everyone at the consulate to be able to celebrate our festival of lights with friends and partners here is a miracle as well,” said the diplomat, who was previously the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel in India from June 2015 to July 2017.

Agreed Seidman, who recalled how his favourite moment of the festival as a child was receiving presents. Now, as an adult, spending time with his family is what matters most. “It’s actually more fun here than back home since I get to show my friends something they don’t know,” he told CE. “We had friends over every night except for one and got to explain our traditions and culture to them,” he adds.
Since no festivities are complete without food, the celebration also ensured that guests got to try some Israeli specials. These included potato pancakes and sufganiyot, which are jelly-filled doughnuts, or as one Indo-Israeli couple at the party, Shalini Elassery and Alex Skorohod, jokingly said, “The real reason why we are here.” Guests were also treated to the screening of an award-winning Israeli film Zero Motivation, Hanukkah songs (with both Kursh and Seidman doing a small performance) and music by The Chronic Blues Circus, a Bengaluru-based band. Also present were Maruo Katsumasa, deputy consul-general, Japan, comedian and actor Rubi Chakravarti, hospitality professional Aslam Gafoor and brand guru Harish Bijoor.

‘Truly namma Bengaluru’
The city reminds Dana Kursh, who will be starting her third year in Bengaluru, of Israel, thanks to the similar vibrance, innovation hubs and temples she sees back home too. “You can really see the heritage of the temples,” she says, adding that she loves the Bull temple and finds the ISKCON temple to be very powerful. “But I love the small temples as well. It’s like back in home in Israel, when you cross the road and see many temples,” she says, while also paying credit to the city’s weather. “But at the end of the day, it’s really about the people. I can say it’s truly namma Bengaluru.”

Second home
Ariel Seidman is grateful to the city giving him time to spend with his family. He said, “I love CTR and eating masala dosa. It’s the best. I also love going to the clubs here for their Bollywood music.” The diplomat, who has been in the city for a year and a half, has also picked up salsa and table tennis here.

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