A 'kosher' house for Israeli travellers at Delhi's 'Little Israel'
Nestled in a bylane and away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi's chaotic Paharganj area, lies a quaint "Jewish oasis" where weary Israeli travellers stop by to feel at home.
Dotted with bilingual – English and Hebrew – commercial signboards, a flight of stairs takes visitors to a world, which could well be mistaken for a
traditional household in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
Welcome to Chabad House, a rendezvous point, a community centre and a watering hole, all rolled into one, for Israelis to "meet, greet and eat" together.
"From weary tourists to people visiting India for business purposes, they come first to the Chabad House and seek guidance for hotel and lodging facilities in Delhi as much as for socialising with fellow countrymen.
"Travellers, who are visiting other parts of India and transiting through the city, also come here just to experience a slice of Israel. They pray, eat kosher food, share Israeli snacks, celebrate Jewish festivals and make merry," Rabbi Akiva said.
Nitzan Zeira and Shir Arzuan, two friends from Tel Aviv, who stopped by at the Chabad House before travelling to Dharamsala, are super excited that Prime Minister Modi became the "first Indian PM to visit my country".
"We Israelis have been travelling to India in good numbers, and we really hope that after Modi's visit, the tourist influx from India to our side would go up," said Zeira.
Modi during the visit had also met 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, the Israeli child who lost his
parents in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, a gesture that has warmed the hearts of Israelis, from Delhi to Tel Aviv.
"For us, this was the most touching gesture from India," Akiva said.
After the terrorist attack, the house has been provided with round-the-clock police security.
A Chabad House is a community centre for disseminating traditional Judaism by the Chabad movement. These houses are run by a Chabad Shaliach (emissary), his wife - a Shlucha - and his family.
Rabbi Akiva is the Shaliach at Paharganj's Chabad House.
"We moved two places in the vicinity before settling here off Main Bazaar Road. It was established in 1993, the first in Delhi. A second one came up some years ago in Vasant Vihar," he said.
Giant portraits of the late leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement Rebbe adorns the walls on the first floor, and the second floor, which houses a restaurant offering Jewish cuisine.
"The Chabad House is a part of a Jewish community network, headquartered in Brooklyn in New York. Around the world there about 5,000 such houses while in India the number is close to 20, including at Manali, Pushkar, Dharamsala and two in Delhi," adds Akiva, who moved to India six years ago from Israel.
"It is like a 'Little Israel' and most of the foreign tourists coming here are from that country. This is the peak season and from Delhi, they mostly move to Leh, Ladakh, Dharamasala or Manali as their next destination.
"Delhi is their transit point, but economy accommodation and a Chabad House at the heart of this place, make Paharganj very attractive to them. In my travel agency, on an average 20 Israelis are booking tickets on a given day, and sometimes that number swells to 60," says Anil Bhardwaj, who runs a tour agency from his office near the House.AGENCIES