A Bene Israel Culinary Adventure



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The Bene Israel are one of the oldest Jewish communities in India. According to legend, their ancestors were a group of Jews who shipwrecked in the on the Konkan peninsula in the second century BC. More likely, they are an offshoot of the Yemeni jews with whom they maintained relationships throughout the centuries.

Until the 18th century, the Bene Israel lived mostly in isolated rural communities in the Konkan region. They adopted the Marathi language and many of the cultural traits, including the dress and cuisine, of their non-Jewish neighbors. However, they kept their own religious traditions, including dietary laws and holidays. That meant that they developed their own version of southern Indian cuisine.

The Bene Israel moved from their villages to Bombay in the 18th century and reconnected with Jewish communities in the rest of the world, which led to their filling the gaps in their practices of Judaism.

The Bene Israel probably reached their greatest number in 1947, when 24,000 of them lived in Bombay. After independence and the establishment of Israel, there was a mass migration of Bene Israel to Israel. Today, fewer than 5,000 remain.

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