Ra'anana, 20 kms from Tel Aviv, is a world apart from the rest of Israel. Everybody speaks English! There are the quiet British voices, loud American ones, penetrating Canadian consonants, drawling Australian accents and more, all speaking English most of the time, with the occasional accented Hebrew.
This is where Jewish immigrants from English speaking have largely congregated. It is a welcoming milieu: there are English bookshops, Meatland sells Cadbury's chocolates and Ovaltine. Nowhere else in Israel will you hear conversations laced with 'matok' (sweetheart). Ra'anana's the place to go if you want to be 'my dear-ed' or 'my love-ed'.
The civic mindedness of the Anglo-Israelis finds a great outlet in the enormously popular e-mail groups that have become the mainstay of Central Israel. There is the simply named raananalist; there are taanglo, janglo, kfarsabalist, herzshmar, fivetowns, esralist, raananabakes and so on.
Along with some recipes and real estate offers, these lists also give a fascinating insight into what matters to these immigrants in their adopted land. Lessons are sought and given on how to read utility bills (which are made out in Hebrew), dog walking services are offered, donations solicited and made, gift ideas sought and given, help is solicited on everything from good medical services to reliable handymen, goods are offered on sale. It is an alternative virtual universe, ordered, unseen, friendly, English speaking and strictly apolitical, with a resident policeman in the form of the moderator.
The Anglo community in Israel provides the country with its largely South African dentist population; as well as a cricketing culture. This is a passion the Anglos share with Jewish Indian immigrants of course!
One of the strands that bind Anglos together is the ESRA magazine, a unique document of lives, struggles, achievements, marriages, births - in short the pulse of a community. Merle Guttman, the founder of Esra, an acronym for the English Speaking Residents Association, exemplifies both the pioneering spirit of the Zionists as well as a single minded dedication to community welfare. Esra, which started several decades ago as a support group to governmental efforts towards immigrant absorption, has grown to include several activities, ranging from book clubs, golf and scrabble tournaments and music evenings, to the more serious volunteer efforts towards working with underprivileged communities, irrespective of their native language. And of course the high quality magazine that they bring out every two months!
SBI sets shop
In the meanwhile, the State Bank of India has opened its first branch in Israel in the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan; with the aim of financing bilateral trade in the fields of telecommunications, high-tech, chemicals, textiles, agriculture, processed foods, health services and pharmaceutics; apart from, of couse, diamonds.
Elbit Medical Imaging, a giant Israeli real estate company is investing heavily in a gigantic housing project in Bangalore, with projected sales of USD 3 billion. This is Elbit's third real estate venture in India, after a project in Pune and a chain of hospitals in Kolkata.
Not wanting to be left out of the Indian real estate boom Eliezer Fishman, Nathan Hetz and Lev Leviev have been active in the Indian market for a while, and a few weeks ago, a brand new partnership has been inked between Yitzhak Tshuva and Shari Arison, 'to pursue real estate opportunities in India'.
(The author is a Tel Aviv based journalist and short story writer)