Shalom India Housing Society
Shalom India Housing Society is an apartment complex formed in the wake of the shocking riots of 2002 by Erza, an Indian Bene Israel Jew and a contractor by profession. The Society is formed to allow Jews to maintain a separate identity in multi-religious India. The Bene Israel communities trace their descent to Jews who escaped persecution two thousand years ago and were shipwrecked in Alibaug in Mumbai. Since then they have made India their home. Most of the Bene Israelis have now returned to their promised land, leaving very few behind.
Shalom India Housing Society traces the life of the Bene Israel Jews settled in West Ahmedabad. The protagonist of the story is Prophet Elijah, who blesses the life of a Bene Israel Jew with happiness. He also grants the wishes of people in the community. Esther David unveils the way Bene Israelis have adapted to Indian ways of religious worship; every Bene Israel Jew in India has poster of Prophet at their home. This violates basic tenets of Judaism, as idol worship is taboo.
The story begins as the prophet visits each house of the Shalom India Housing Society on the first day of Passover when Haggadah was being read out. The book is divided into nineteen chapters and the author enraptures us by sharing the pains, love, passion, and the loneliness of the members of the Shalom Housing Society.
Though humorously tailored, Esther David has portrayed the fears and issues faced by the members of this small community to keep their identity, culture, and beliefs sacrosanct in India, a land of many gods. The author unveils the problems of being a minority community in India, and their yearnings to return to Israel.
Though the characters in this book are Jews settled in India, the insecurities the book vocalizes are the feelings and frustrations of the members of a minority community everywhere in this world. I was deeply touched by these lines “Where is the home? Is our home within us or somewhere else?”