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BENE ISRAEL OF INDIA


 Fifth National Seminar of the Israel Genealogical Society
PRESERVING MEMORY: FAMILY and COMMUNITY
Tuesday, 1 December 2009 at The Museum of the Jewish People [Beit Hatfutsot]
Tel Aviv University

 BENE ISRAEL OF INDIA
 בני ישראל מהודו
 Dr. Isaac  Joseph Solomon
 The Bene Israel community arrived inIndiafrom the north ofIsraelnearly 2500 years ago after a shipwreck near theKonkanCoast, some 60 kilo meters from Mumbai. Perhaps, they were either escaping from the atrocities of Queen Isabel and King Ahav or, on sail to India on a mission from the court of King Solomon to trade in elephant tusks, precious stones, spices, peacocks and apes. The Bene Israels claim to be descendants from Jews who escaped persecution in theGalileesometime after the destruction of theFirstTemple.  The Bene Israels maintained the practices of Jewish dietary laws, circumcision, recitation of “Shema” twice a day and observation of Sabbath as a day of rest which earned them the nickname, ‘Saturday Oil Pressers’. In 18th century they were discovered by one Mr. David Rahabi, perhaps the younger brother of  Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon.
At their peak in 1948 they were 35,000 souls spread all overIndia, specially Mumbai, Konkan, Thane, Poone, Ahmedabad,Delhi, and evenKarachiin today’sPakistan. There are about 4500 Bene Israels inIndiatoday most of them in Mumbai, Thane, Poone,Delhiand Ahmedabad. The rest, either came toIsraelor went to other English speaking countries of the world after the Israeli independence   There are about 65,000 Bene Israels inIsraeland 2000 Bene Israels in the English speaking countries of the world.  In2002, aDNA test conducted in the villages confirmed that the Bene Israels share a similar heredity as the Kohanim, with Moshe.
Biography
Dr. Isaac  Joseph Solomon - Born at Cheul in Konkan, near Mumbai, onApril 26, 1937. Received  B.A in Economics and  M.A in History from theElphinstonCollege, Mumbai. During this period, taught atSirJacobSassoonHigh school, his Alma Mater. Also served in the work force of Vinoba Bhave; Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophical heir.
Worked as a Marketing Manager inIndiafor 12 years. Migrated toIsraelwith wife and baby boy in 1974. Worked at Eilat sea port for 12 years. During this period taught atEilatCollegein the evenings. Then taught English at Eilat high schools for 20 years. While inIsrael, received Masters in Education from theLiverpoolUniversityin 1999, and Dr. of Arts in Education after five years.
At present, as a retired educationist, volunteering in various religious schools in Eilat. An active member of the Indian Jewish community in Eilat. Manager of Eilat Cricket Club.For the last six years working on the cemetery project in the Konkan and Mumbai with a view to search for roots of the ancient BeneIsraelcommunity inIndia.
The above written contains the private opinion of the lecturer and is solely his responsibility
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