Pune synagogue holds special prayers for safety of people in Israel, return of hostages
In Pune, about 300 Bene Israelis also have relatives in Israel, and daily prayers are offered for the well-being of the country, those who lost their lives, and the hostages.
A Pune synagogue priest, whose parents are based in Israel for last 10 years, is worried about their well-being and has been holding special prayers here for the safety of people in the Jewish country and return of those held hostage by Hamas.
According to a trustee of the Succath Shelomo Synagogue, located in a narrow lane in Rasta Peth area of Maharashtra's Pune city, there are around 300 Bene Israelis residing here, all of whom have close relatives in Israel.
In view of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, everyone is understandably concerned, he said.
Noel Issac Mapgaonkar, a 47-year-old chazzan (priest) at the synagogue, has been conducting special prayers three times a day for the well-being of the people of Israel and safe return of those currently in the captivity of Hamas.
Mapgaonkar, whose parents have been in Ramle, Israel, for the last 10 years, is also concerned about their and other relatives' well-being and has been maintaining a close contact with them.
"As the conflict continues, I am worried about my parents and relatives who are in this difficult situation. In this tense situation, they have been advised to remain indoors and stock essential supplies. This is a challenging time for Israel, but I am confident that the State of Israel will bring back the hostages, and I offer daily prayers at the synagogue here for their safe return," he told PTI.
In his daily prayers, Mapgaonkar seeks blessings for the people held hostage by Hamas, those who have lost their lives, and strength and courage for the Israeli military personnel defending their nation.
Yosef Nowgaonkar, a trustee and secretary of the synagogue, who joins Mapgaonkar in leading the prayers, said there are nearly 300 Bene Israelis residing in Pune, all of whom have close relatives in Israel.
Given the scale of the ongoing conflict, everyone is understandably concerned, he said.
"The tactics employed by Hamas in their attacks on Israel are deeply unsettling for all of us. This level of intensity and brutality in the attacks is unprecedented. We are in daily contact with our relatives in Israel, enquiring about their well-being and safety as rocket attacks continue," he said.
He said they conduct daily prayers for the people who have lost their lives, those held hostage, and the overall well-being of Israel.
"We have also received a special prayer from Israel, dedicated to the Israeli army and soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in defence of their nation," he said.
Nowgaonkar noted the strong historical relationship between India and Israel and said during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tenure, these ties have only grown stronger.
"There is now a personal connection between the two nations, and when India expresses support for Israel, it is more than just a political statement, it carries a personal touch," he added.
Prime Minister Modi told his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that people of India stand firmly with his country in this difficult hour, expressing strong and unequivocal condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Netanyahu had called up Modi to update him on the ongoing situation as Israel carries out retaliatory strikes against Hamas after its militants killed hundreds of Israelis in a surprise weekend attack across its southern border.