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Keneset Eliyahoo Synagogue

Of The Bene Israel

Ancient double decker
It is thought they escaped persecution in Galilee in the 2nd century BC. They were shipwrecked and washed up on the shores of India with only their oral traditions. They spoke no Hebrew but called themselves Bene Israel, Sons of Israel

They remained isolated from other Jewish communities and developed their own form of Judaism, keeping the Sabbath while incorporating some of the Hindu dietary laws and their own interpretation of the caste system

There are many influential Bene Israel members in India


Walking to the Gate of India we came across this very poor fishing community.  2000 years ago Mumbai was an archipelago of 7 islands inhabited by Kolis tribal fishermen.  Their descendents still live here in some of the worst slums in the world.  A few yards further down  Colaba we saw one of the few cars in Mumbai that hadn't yet been involved in a fender bender, a beautiful new wine coloured Rolls Royce


The Roller was heading here, to the ritzy shops of the Courtyard Mall, where you can buy clothes from India's most talented designers, if you have the money, a penchant for Bollywood chic and can forget what you have seen just up the road.
A short block away was our destination, the Taj Hotel and the Gateway to India

Taj Palace Hotel
The famous facade was originally the back of the hotel, it could be that the builders miss read the plans as hotel management say, or maybe it was just easier for arriving guests carriages to enter from the West as others claim.  What ever the truth about it's orientation, in the 1960's the West entrance was closed and our accommodating door man now stands in front of the entrance on the Eastern or harbour side of the building
Since Jamshetji Tata opened his hotel in 1903 it has welcomed the rich and famous, from British royals to Joan Collins.  From Mick Jagger to Hilary Clinton and anyone who is anyone in between.  When we visited in 2006 President Hu of China was staying here and it was a wonderful place to wander around and get a little taste of opulence before returning to our more modest quarters at the Residency Fort with which we were very satisfied

Since the terrorist attacks of 2008 I wonder if it is still possible to walk in off the street to just admire the vaulted ceilings, onyx pillars, furnishings, chandeliers and the floating staircase as we did.  Today it would cost 127 million to build and it's restoration budget must have been huge. Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama have both stayed here since it reopened


The Gateway to India
Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay in 1911. It was completed in 1924 and for a time it really was the gateway, the arrival point for many travellers to India
On February 28th 1948 it became the Gateway from India when the last British troops to leave India for Blighty, the First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry passed ceremoniously through on their way into the history books.
The sun had set on the British Empire the 'pink bits' were all but gone
At the base of the Gateway is Apollo Pier.  Boats leave from here to take trippers out into the harbour and to visit Elephanta Caves, Mumbai's most popular tourist attraction
Elsewhere it was business as usual, with office, phone and legal services available on the street.  Once considered a good career choice, the services of these street secretaries and law clerks is less and less in demand 
Earlier in the day a young Tibetan, Lhakpa Tsering  had  attempted to self-immolate outside the Taj Palace Hotel where President Hu of China was to address the India-China Economic Trade and Investment Summit. 

There were six demonstrations that day. The organizers issued this statement:
"Chinese President Hu - one of the most powerful people on earth was confined to a building for a day fearing protests - this is the power of non-violent actions." 

Meanwhile a large number of Tibetans gathered at Azad Maidan staging a peaceful one-day fast, protesting Hu Jintao's visit.  Gandhi would have been proud of them

As we passed by the Azad Maidan we were invited in by this young Tibetan woman.  She was doing a grand job, keeping the police and press happy and drawing in any interested passers by
A Maidan is a sports ground and this one is known for its myriad cricket pitches.  The Hindi word Azad means 'free' and people have freely associated here to protest for many years
At one time you could have joined the huge crowd to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak

'Kill me or free me'

Meanwhile a few feet away a much less flamboyant but good natured protest group attracted little attention.  They were rural medical Dr's protesting their lack of contracts

Sisters made sure their little brother had his share of the bounty provided by Fanny.   Rather than offer them money she took them to a food stall to choose whatever they wanted

No she did not take them to Mc Donald's

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