By Vijay Darda | 22-01-2018
Israeli army celebrates Haifa Day every year on September 23 in the honour of indomitable spirit of the Indian soldiers
In my column last week, I had mentioned that Israelis love India immensely. Wherever I went, I was received with great warmth by all the people but one question they definitely asked me was: Why despite being a close ally, India voted against Israel on the issue of Jerusalem. This question was asked by so many people that it left me worried that this issue may well drive a wedge in the relationship of these two countries. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved that Israel is indeed the best friend of India and the Jews are very large-hearted people. A journalist had asked him how he viewed India’s opposition to the American proposal to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He took a liberal view saying that a single vote does not make any difference and the friendship of the two countries will continue without a hitch.
Jerusalem which became a hot topic at the United Nations over the last few days, is the holy city and centre of faith not only for Jews but for Christians and Muslims as well. The old area is surrounded by walls within the new city. This is the Heritage City. I visited this city and was impressed by its beauty and nobility. I learned that the Israelis see the Battle of Haifa as the first symbol of the establishment of the nation of Israel. I also learned that the school textbooks feature the tales of valour of Indian soldiers who were martyred in this battle. …and I reached Haifa! It is about 160 kilometres from Jerusalem and 92 kilometers from Tel Aviv. Turkey had occupied Haifa at the time of World War I and the German army was supporting them.
The army which the British sent through Iran to liberate this city from Turkey included the Jodhpur and Mysore Regiments of India, which had only swords and flags in the name of weapons. Imagine the difficulty that they must have faced while reaching there with their horses. There it was discovered that the Turkish-German army had mortars and guns in abundance! The British army ordered Dalpat Singh, who led the regiment to return but Indian troops refused. The soldiers said that beating a retreat is shameful. After that, Jodhpur and Mysore Regiments fought valiantly and liberated Haifa. It was September 23, 1918. As many as 47 Indian soldiers were martyred in that battle. Their names are written on a memorial.
Some verses in Sanskrit and immortal messages of Gurbani have been carved there. Om Bhagvate Namah. On reading this verse, my heart danced with joy! I paid homage to the memorial of heroic soldiers. In fact, wherever I go, I always bow to the martyrs. There are many olive trees there which are considered sacred. Under the Olive Tree, Lord Jesus gave the discourse. I also saw a temple of Bahá’í. The Bahá’í community is the largest in India after Israel. In Delhi, Baha’is have built an elegant Lotus Temple.
Israelis believe that victory in Haifa led to the rule of Britain in the area, which opened the way for Israel to become a separate nation in 1948. That is why on September 23, the Israeli army celebrates Haifa Day. There are three statues installed in the memory of heroic soldiers of Haifa at Tin Murti Chowk in Delhi, and India celebrates this day with great pride. During Netanyahu’s India visit, India has taken a good step by renaming Tin Murti Chowk as Tin Murti Haifa Chowk.
During the visit to Israel, I had such a rich and varied experience that it is not possible for me to write about it all in this column. I went to Tel Aviv. I went to the Gaza Strip, where I only saw soldiers everywhere. I went to see the Dead Sea which is 430.5 metres below sea level. Its salinity is 10 times more than the sea. There is no living creature in it, but it has 34 per cent minerals, so many world famous cosmetic products are produced here. I will discuss about it all sometime in future!
Right now I am sharing those things from which our country can learn a lot. All the land is owned by the government and it is given on 99 years of lease. Kibbutz means collective community which cultivates land. Kibbutz owns everything from school to factory. They have their own transport system. Of late, people in Kibbutz have started keeping their own vehicles. They face shortage of water but through drip irrigation, they have increased agricultural production by 7 times in 25 years.
Notably, they are using the same amount of water which they used to earlier. Here I would like to mention the Jain Irrigation of Jalgaon which has set an example in the field of drip irrigation. It has bought Israel NaanDan Irrigation. Now NaanDan Jain Irrigation is working in more than 100 countries across the world. Modiji, Gadkari and Devendra Fadnavis have all lauded the work of Jain Irrigation during their Israel visit. I admire the vision of Bhavarlal Jain and hard work of his sons including Anil Jain.
In Israel, I saw a large brinjal of the size of a watermelon! I saw tomatoes of different colours! Very tasty! They are so advanced in agriculture that they decide what would be the colour, size and taste of tomato, brinjal, cabbage, cucumber, potato or other produce. They have set an example in the world. They cut the stubble of the crop and bury it in the ground to make compost so as to make the soil more fertile. When I was watching all this, I remembered how the farmers from Lahore to Punjab and Haryana burn stubble causing fog and pollution in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and other states including Delhi.
Israel’s state-of-the-art and alert security system impressed me very much. On the return trip, I was tempted to bring some Medjool dates, the size of which was amazing. Security personnel at the airport first put dates in the large scanner and then checked it with a manual scanner. After this, they examined every single date. The whole process consumed one and a quarter hours and I was worried that I might miss the flight. On return, I was thinking why do we not make ourselves like Israel? They lack land, lack water, yet they grow up to 93 per cent of the foodgrains themselves!
Before I conclude…
A pleasant experience of travelling to Israel was that many people praised my friend Union minister Nitin Gadkari. People said many leaders from India visit Israel. They invite us to come to India but when we go to India, they do not have the time to meet us, they said. Nitinji is an exception. He meets freely and treats them with great respect.