Jews of India
Jews are one of those rare communities spreading almost every corner of the world owing to various social and political reasons. The oldest source we have about their relations with India is the Old Testament. The intensity of their existence in India has varied depending on the social and political circumstances, as well as a number of exiles they encountered throughout history. The situation acquired new dimensions with the coming of the colonialist countries –the Portuguese in 1500-1663; the Dutch in 1663-1795; and the British in 1795-1948. Although the history of Jews in India goes as far back as the ancient times, the earliest explicit references about their existence in India are found in Muslim sources. Especially works on geography and itineraries belonging to the period between the 9th and the 14th centuries are the main sources conveying information about religious structures in India and about Jews living there. On the other hand, after the so-called geographical discoveries, similar references are made by the Western sources from the 15th century on. From then onwards, increasing relations between the European and the Indian Jews constitutes a turning point for the Jews living in the subcontinent. With the establishment of Israel, these relations reached a peak. Yet, although Muslim historians and travelers since the 10th century identified them as Jew, recognition of these communities by the Israeli authorities has not been an easy matter. Some of the biggest and the most authentic Jewish communities among the Indian Jews, like Bene Yisrael, received recognition from the Israeli religious authorities only in 1980s.
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