Israel: Foreign Minister S Jaishankar unveils “Bhoodan Grove” plaque in the Jerusalem forest in Israel

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on Monday unveiled the “Bhoodan Grove” plaque in the Jerusalem forest, highlighting lesser-known aspects of Indo-Israel relations before the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

With the aim of keeping Mahatma Gandhi’s village concept as a basic unit of development, Indian leaders who were exploring ways to implement the socialist ideals of the Sarvodaya movement, namely “Bhoodan and Gramdan”, made several visits to Israel to study the structure of the different forms of communal and cooperative institutions of Israel – “Kibbutzim and Moshavim”.

Jayaprakash Narayan, the leader of the Sarvodaya movement, visited Israel in September 1958 for a nine-day visit as a guest of the Histadrut, the Israel Federation of Labor.

His visit received wide attention in the Israeli media, which warmly received him and published lengthy biographical articles. He then met Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and visited Kfar Saba in central Israel, and Kibbutz Afikim near the Sea of ​​Galilee in northern Israel during his stay.

Narayan’s visit was followed by that of a 27-member team from Sarvodaya, who, during their six-month study trip to Israel from February to August 1960, spent time in Tel Aviv and Kfar Giladi in northern Israel.

On their way back to India, they planted the “Bhoodan Grove” in the Jerusalem forest on May 22, 1960.

Jaishankar described the visit of workers from Narayan and Bhoodan as “an aspect of our common history which has not received the attention it deserves”.

He also called the unveiling of the plaque very “timely” as last year was the 125th anniversary of Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s birth.

“But there is also a larger message in what we do today. Part of it is a message that our relationship is very human-centric … that of the importance of going green and most importantly I think it’s a reminder to all of us that between India and Israel, we must continue to find new paths, better paths, deeper societal ties and this is at the heart of the progress of our relations ” , said the minister.

Jaishankar received a certificate from the Jewish National Fund after unveiling the plaque at “Bhoodan Grove”.

In his Sunday night speech, he also shared information about this shared historical link with the Indian Jewish community.

“In the modern post-independence era, there are also relatively lesser-known aspects of how major socialist political leaders and currents in India felt a kinship with the kibbutz movement in Israel. And, in a quest to build on the Gandhian concept of ashram or village as a self-sustaining development unit.

“Jayaprakash Narayan, one of our most prominent political leaders and theorists associated with our struggle for independence, visited Israel in 1958, and many supporters of Vinoba Bhave, another imposing leader of our independence movement, visited Israel in 1960 to understand the kibbutz movement here, “Jaishankar added.

Details of the intense cooperation between Sarva Seva Sangh, the group tasked with pursuing Gandhi’s “constructive program” of social upliftment, and the Israeli moshavim and kibbutzim were also published last year in an article, “the Kibbutz and the Ashram: The Agriculture of Sarvodaya, Israeli Aid and the Global Imaginaries of Indian Development, ”by Benjamin Siegel in the journal American Historical.

The Sarva Seva Sangh housed Benjamin Halevy, a Ukraine-born agronomist recruited from the Kfar Yehoshua Moshav (or Cooperative Agricultural Colony) in Israel’s Jezreel Valley for two years, after reports emerged of the stupendous yields Halevy was making from basaltic soil.

“Gandhi’s ashram kibbutz would not simply be an Israeli model suited to Indian contexts. agriculture and the theory of modernization, ”writes the author in the article.

“A collective agricultural colony designed by Israel in the spiritual home of the late Mahatma would show that a popular program of cooperative recovery was not unsuited to the economic and social realities of postcolonial India, proof that the Gandhian economy was on par with the most daring political experiments of our time, ”he adds.

The Foreign Minister also laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum to honor the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

“This memorial is both a testimony to the evil of which man is capable as well as to the resilience and courage of the human spirit. For those who have followed it, it will remain an inspiration of courage and righteousness”, Jaishankar wrote in the Holocaust Museum’s guestbook after laying a wreath.

Later today, Jaishankar will meet his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid during the day in addition to visiting the Indian Hospice in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Shirlene J. Manley