I found my connection to Israel the day I landed. After a short bus ride from Ben Gurion airport to the city of Rehovot, I ventured into the city with Abir, an Israeli student from the University of Miami. We entered a stationery store to buy a pocketbook, and finding one with the help of the owner's daughter, we waited in line at the checkout counter. In line, I noticed that the owner of the store seemed to be of Indian descent, but I didn't make too much of the association. Interestingly enough, she seemed to have noticed my ethnicity as well and asked Abir in Hebrew where I was from. When he related I was from India, specifically Maharashtra, she spoke to me in Marathi, my mother tongue, and asked me how I liked Israel. Six thousand miles away and a twelve hour flight away from home, I'd somehow run into a Maharashtrian, Indian Jew. Later, I learned that Indian Jews actually make up 1% of the population in Israel and historically, India has been the only country in which Jews have not been persecuted. This first encounter remained with me for the rest of the trip as I ventured into the Old City of Jerusalem, gazed down at the Jordanian border from the top of Masada and walked on the Mediterranean beach in Tel Aviv. Throughout my experience, I found more connections between Indian and Israeli culture, such as the dancing by the Western Wall for Shabbat, which was very similar to the Garba-Raas dancing for the festival of Navratri.
Coming back to Vanderbilt, I've sought to share my experience with my various communities, such as the Hindu organization on campus, and to encourage them to learn about the complexity and diversity of Israel. In doing so, I hope they find their own connections.
Aditya Karhade is a junior at Vanderbilt studying Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience. He was born in Nashik, India and moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania at the age of nine. Since then, he has lived in Jacksonville, Florida, Fremont, California and Nashville, Tennessee but he considers Jacksonville his home. Aditya is involved in several different things on campus, including the umbrella organization for all cultural groups on campus, the Vanderbilt Multicultural Leadership Council.