On day two of our trip, we got a real sense of the endlessness of Mumbai. The city is home to 22 million people and growing every day. To accommodate the needs of this large city, the municipality is building a subway system, which has closed streets all over this city and worsened traffic. We made the most of our time on the bus by watching pedestrians bob and weave between cars, spotting mosques and Hindu temples out the windows and passing time with a guitar sing-along.
The theme of the day was Israel in Mumbai. Our first stop was the Israeli Consulate, where we learned about MASHAV and the work the consulate is doing in India. MASHAV is Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. Israel and India have had informal relations since 1953 and established full diplomatic relations in 1992. Today, they collaborate in many areas, including a strategic agricultural partnership that focuses on introducing crop diversity, productivity and water efficiency utilizing Israeli innovation and know-how in Indian conditions. Beyond agriculture, MASHAV partners with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to work on improving education, entrepreneurship, public health and other areas of development focused on the needs of each region. In India, MASHAV’s priority for 2019 is women’s empowerment, and they are partnering Indian NGOs with those based in Israel.
After visiting the consulate, we headed into the Santacruz neighborhood to learn about two local NGOs. Heroes for Life is an Israeli NGO that arranges volunteer opportunities for traveling Israeli backpackers. Israelis volunteer in the Santacruz neighborhood for two weeks at a time, working with locals in the community. We arrived at the Kherwadi Municipal School to see the word “Shalom” painted on the wall by the gate. The children were very excited to have visitors. We had prepared a song—“Kol Ha’Olam Kulo” (“The Whole Wide World”)—in Hebrew, English and Hindi. We also ran around, danced and played games.
Next, we visited the Triratna Prerana Mandal NGO, which provides sanitation services in the area. They run sanitation education programs at the municipal school and in the local slum. They also provide a public toilet that services over 6,000 people a day. Additionally, they promote women’s empowerment by maintaining a flour mill for local women to grind their own flour. They were very excited to show us their achievements and appreciation for the Israeli volunteers who work with them each year. We shared traditional Indian coffee and they honored our group leaders with flowers.
Now, we’re headed back to the hotel to prepare for Shabbat with the Knesset Eliyahoo congregation. We’re looking forward to seeing another side of the Jewish India community. Shabbat Shalom and namaste from India!
Emily Kates is a clinical psychologist working with college and graduate students in the counseling center of Boston College.
Allie Pinosky was born and raised in Charleston, S.C. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2015 with a degree in biomedical engineering. During her time in college, she went to Israel through the Birthright Israel Excel program. After college she took a job as a research engineer at MIT/Lincoln Laboratory. In her free time, Allie likes to read, cook, hang out with friends and hike.