mardi 11 octobre 2016

FORT COCHIN 5777 EREV YOM KIPUR.. AN ENJOYABLE EVENING WITH A SYRIAN ST THOMAS CHRISTIAN FAMILY

YOM KIPUR 5777 IN COCHIN, KERALA 

I am impressed with the Christian Community in Cochin, their fierce devotion to their faith but done in good faith and vigour. Chicken and meat prices in Cochin goes down during Lent, my good friend Rockey Neroth told me later, because 80 per cent of the Christians observe Lent.
it was the Day of Atonement coming up and I find my self in Fort Cochin, where there is a beautiful synagogue but alas not enough Jews to make a minyan.
Last year at this time I was in Leticia, at the Colombian Amazon and it was a memorable visit. 5776
5775 was spent with good friends M and G in Miami, with a nice meal before going to the Temple Israel. 

Today at lunch time, George Mampilli, a descendant of Cochin Jews but a devout Catholic regaled me with tales of JOB, the prophet whose tomb I had the chance to say the Kaddish a couple of months back near Salalah in Oman. 
This devotion to the old testament and a fierce loyalty to Israel that distinguishes this community of christians has made themselves very endearing. 
The only Jew in town was going to spend the entire Yom Kippur praying, so I had to invent a way to celebrate Yom Kippur 5777.
RN is a good friend of mine, and if you see him in Israel you would mistake him for a local. He and his wife are devout syrian catholic christians, dating their conversion to the arrival of St Thomas in 57 of the Common Era. I had always wondered why this fierce loyalty among Syrian Catholic Christians to Israel and Jewish people? 
Imagine St Thomas arriving at the coast of Kerala, right near where Cochin stands now (before 1341 there was no COCHIN), the local people wonder who is this stranger who is preaching something so bizarre, the local king was Hindu who worship about 800 odd gods and for them the idea of a single god who was benevolent would have been alien. But there was a community in Muziris and the surroundings at that time who were already monotheistic and for them the preachings of St Thomas would have been attractive and understandable. At that time, Christianity did not exist as a separate religion but perhaps thought of as a liberalization of the orthodoxy of the religious practices in Israel of the time.
The community that could have been receptive would have been the Jewish Community of Malabar coast. They may have been the earliest converts to the new liberalized version of Jewish religion, in fact St Thomas was said to have to preach to the Jews. In my opinion there is a good possibility that the Syrian Orthodox Christians have jewish origins which may explain their millenium long loyalty and respect of the Jewish people.
I decided to accept RN's invitation to his house for a special dinner. 
The evening was as perfect as it could get. His family were in full presence, two sons and a daughter and their children, giving the house a joyous presence. The friendship between me and RN, which started many years ago when I left a 5 peso cuban note at the desk of his fledgling bookstore, the strength of which was evident during our conversations and consultations. I truly admire their values.
The dinner was delicious to say the least. I told them that I prefer seafood and dinner began with Kerala Fish specialty of Carimeen (pearl spot) a fish found in the backwaters of Kerala is a fresh water fish with soft meat which one picks with two fingers cooked in coconut curry. There was sardines from the Arabian sea; prawns in curry sauce with coconut bits, and it ended up with ice cream which truly had a creamy taste, of course devoid of the chemicals added to Ben and Jerry.
The dinner had started late allowing for the proper preparation of the fish and the two sons and their father and I sat down to enjoy a lovely meal. 
The whole atmosphere was pleasant and for me, as a Jew remembering Yom Kippur, it was the most appropriate thing to do in Cochin.
May the year 5777 be sweet for all of us
It was nice to be reminded by RN's wife that Job was especially blessed prophet and I thought, my life certainly has improved very much, in terms of professional and personal life since that visit to the tomb of Job a couple of months ago..
 this used to be the home of Mr Koder, the most prominent Jew of Fort Cochin, now converted into a hotel and restaurant

 In the absence of candles, two Bacardi bottles served the purpose and I could easily recite my borepri hagefen over that..Cane is also fruit of the earth..

 Karimeen in coconut curry 
S
 Sardines
 Shrimps in coconut bits