The journey from Haifa

The journey from Haifa

Strong connection

The journey from Haifa

When I was 16, I was part of a youth delegation to the United States. For one month, we travelled across the US lecturing about Israel. When I came back home, I told my mom, ‘I want to be a diplomat’.” Yael Hashavit, the Consular General of Israel, has not looked backed since.

Twenty years as a diplomat has gifted her a bunch of experiences and tryst with many a culture. “I grew up in Haifa. It is a beautiful place with mountains sloping down to the sea,” she reminisces. “We have people of many religions living together  — Jews, Christians, Muslims and Bahais. Haifa is known for its Bahai spiritual centre and has the first IT centre of Israel.”

Bengaluru, on the other hand, is a new experience, but she is loving it. “Although I’m still new, it’s very nice to be here. People are warm, open and without any formalities.”

With the 68th Independence Day of Israel being celebrated today, Yael says they have festivities lined up. Ask her how important a partner India is for Israel and she says, “If Bengaluru is the startup capital, Israel is the startup nation. Many new inventions are happening there. We need Indian skills and have to start working together. We can improve on everything— health and agriculture sectors, water technology and cultural exchange. In Jewish culture or Jewish education, we are told to question what we learn. And that goes for innovation as well. We need to look at what is missing, provide solutions and make the situation better. We also have great admiration for the academic skills of Indians. So we need to look at how we can cooperate in the academic field too.”

Point out the drought situation in India, and she says, “Israel was in a much worse situation. Now everything is blooming. When we established Israel state 68 years ago, we had nothing. There was not enough water. But then we thought ‘How can it be done?’. One thing led to another. Now Israel stands number one in using recycled water – 86 per cent of our water is recycled. We adopted desalination — removing the salt from the sea water and using it,’’ she says.

“When it comes to cultural aspects, we can open up art galleries, conduct musical events and film festivals. Movies are an opportunity to watch someone else’s life and understand them,” she adds.

Life for the common man in Israel is a normal and calm one, she avers, and contrary to what is generally believed. “You don’t feel any stress. In fact, we fall among the top nations in the happiness ratio. Doesn’t that say everything?” she asks. Tourism is also a part of her vision and there is the desire to build a stronger connect.

“A lot of Indian tourists are now going to Israel. The good thing is you don’t have to travel too far to any place in Israel to get a nice combination of sights. There is archeology, history and natural locations like the Dead Sea, the Mediterranean beaches, Jerusalem, and of course, the vibrant Tel Aviv. Israeli tourists coming to India too feel very attached — with India’s history, different cultures and religions coexisting peacefully, and  everything being so colourful here,” she says.

A mother of 2 girls, Yael says she is understanding Bengaluru through its streets. “I have 2 young girls and we like to explore the streets. They are very happy here. We have lived in Japan and Mexico, so my girls are used to different cultures,” she says.

“My sister-in-law opened an Indian vegetarian restaurant in Israel 20 years ago. So I’m no stranger to Indian food,” she adds.

Meanwhile, has she borne the brunt of the traffic here? “Back home, we always stress on using public transport. While it is most comfortable to get into your car and travel, it is neither economical nor good for the environment. The Metro perhaps can bring in more connectivity here.”

As a parting repartee, she adds, “I was living in Mexico City before coming here. Compared to that, it’s so much better here.”