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From the Indian Diaspora

SERUSALEM, DEC. 5. Eight couples from India exchanged wedding vows on Thursday in Jerusalem, reaffirming the formal conversion to Judaism of representatives of 6,000 people who say they are descendants of a lost tribe of the Jewish people.

The couples in Jerusalem's Great Synagogue. - AFPThe couples belong to "Bnei Menashe," or children of Menashe, and believe they are descendants of the Israelite tribe of the same name. In India, they keep customs and rituals that appear to be biblical in origin, but they are not recognized in Israel as Jewish.

Therefore, on arrival in Israel, they undergo religious conversion, and the wedding ceremony at the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem was the culmination of the process. The eight couples had been married before, but not according to strict Jewish ritual.

Adorned in white dresses and veils, the brides held bouquets of red plastic flowers, and the grooms wore dark Western-style suits. The ceremonies took place under traditional wedding canopies, friends and relatives holding up the white cloth coverings with wooden poles. About 400 attended the ceremony in the huge synagogue.

About 800 members of the sect have been brought to Israel from the northeastern Indian States of Mizoram and Manipur by Amishav, a group that reaches out to people connected to Judaism, said Amishav director Michael Freund.

He said Amishav - which means "my people returns" - would like to bring all 6,000, but the government has stopped the process.

Under Israeli law, Jews have the right to automatic citizenship. The right is also extended to close non-Jewish relatives. In recent years, there has been considerable concern over the number of non-Jews who have entered the country.

Many of the 800 members of the community live in West Bank and Gaza settlements. However, Freund said, "There is absolutely nothing political about this aliya (immigration). They serve in the army and support themselves and their families."

Michael Menashe, 31, acted as translator and adviser for the group. He came to Israel nine years ago. He said that the reception here had been mixed, because of questions over their Jewishness. "We have a connection (to Judaism), but there is no proof," he said. "It is very difficult for us."

There are practical problems, as well. "Communication is the most critical problem for us. We have trouble learning Hebrew," he said.- AP

Respect All Faiths

Jesus was the target for many mighty obstacles and He braved them all. As a result His name and story and message are shedding splendorous light all over the world now. Not Jesus only, every Prophet, Messenger of God, teacher of Truth and Spiritual leader had to wade through ridicule, neglect, and persecution.

Though a diamond is cast in a dustbin, its luster remains; its price will not diminish. Though a sweet pumpkin grows on a thorny fence, its taste remains; its attraction will not diminish. Even if a peacock's egg is hatched in a fowl-roost, its charm remains and its nature does not change. The Divine, although it moves among all and sundry can never be affected or deflected. Envious folks heaped insults on Jesus. Even among His disciples, some betrayed Him and deserted Him. Self-dominated people turn envious at greatness and goodness. But since Prema, the Prema of goodness, had no trace of self in it, Jesus was unafraid. The loveless are enveloped in fear. Love instills courage and promotes adventure. It delights in daring. If you follow your Master, you can face the devil, fight to the end and finish the game. Jesus was love. Sathya Sai too is love. That explains the gathering of Christians of all sects which we see here. In Rome today, Catholics gather to celebrate the Advent of Jesus. The Protestants celebrate it by themselves in their churches.

But in the presence of Sathya Sai, all are equally welcome. The Jews arraigned Jesus and demanded that He should be punished. In this presence, today, Jews are adoring the very Jesus. The Prema of Sathya Sai has transformed, transcended those memories. It has made them realize that there is only one caste, the Caste of Humanity, there is only one religion, the religion of love. A few moments ago, Al Drucker spoke to you on Jesus Christ. He got the courage and the wisdom to offer homage to Christ, because of the impact of Swami's Presence. He understands that there is only one God and that God is omnipresent. Names and forms are different, but they are all aspects of the ONE. Love must bind all believers together; not only believers but non-believers too must be loved and served as His images.

Faith in God implies recognition of the omnipresence of the Divine in the universe and seeking to experience that Divinity within one's self. The Divine is ONE, though it may be called by many names. It must be realized that god is all pervasive and nothing exits without the power of the Divine. One should not allow one's faith in God to be affected by the ups and downs of life. All troubles should be treated as tests and challenges to be faced with courage and faith.

Members of one faith consider it supreme and deride the faith of others. No one is qualified to make such a claim. Even as you prize your faith, you must realize that others are equally entitled to prize their faiths. You may esteem your religion greatly, adhere to it accordingly. But do not criticize or despise the religions of other people. Unfortunately, men have lost this sense of respect for others faiths. If all people recognize this truth, there will be no room in the world for conflicts and discord.

Man strives for peace in many ways. Where is the peace to be found? It is not in the external world. Peace must be found within. Outside you have only pieces. You must seek to find the peace within you. There are millions in the world who preach and propagate what is good.

But not one in a hundred practices the good teachings. This world will pay no heed to those who do not practice what they preach.

Whether others esteem you or not, you must be content to act according to your conscience. The inner conviction that you are acting righteously is your best witness. There is no greater Dharma that adherence to truth. You need have no fear as long as you adhere to truth. It is the liar who is haunted by fear. Therefore go forward to render social service with faith and fortitude. Eschew religious hatred, which is the cause of conflict. Respect every religion.

People today talk about protecting the nation. The nation does not need protection. If you protect and foster truth and righteousness, the nation will be automatically protected.

BE, DO AND SPEAK THE TRUTH

All of you are embodiments of the Spirit (Atma). You are all manifestations of the Divine. The Indwelling Spirit is One and the same in all beings, irrespective of their external difference like the current that illumines bulbs of different wattage and color. Fill your hearts with love. Then you can experience real bliss. With a narrow mind and heart, if you indulge in magniloquent words, no one will care to listen to you. First of all, be good yourself. Then you DO, Act likewise. The SPRAK, tell others about what is good. Only then you will be setting an ideal example.

BABA
 
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