UPDATE: A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Office said that after contacting local police it turns out there was no basis to the claims against Rabbi and Mrs. Bernstein. Rabbi Bernstein himself told Israel Today that he hoped “this was not a case of anti-Semitism. From rumors I heard I understand that this began with a complaint from one of the neighbors. For now, I have not been arrested or questioned. Clearly these are baseless accusations.” His wife added: “What’s happening here is a funny joke.”
An Israeli couple, members of the Lubavitch movement, who came to the city of Fort Kochi, in Southern India, in 2010, will be deported for “suspicious activities.”
Shneor Zalman and Yaffa Bernstein came to India on a multiple-entry visa and rented a house on Rose Street, Fort Kochi, for 50,000 rupees a month, far higher than the market rate. Their willingness to pay exorbitant rent caught the attention of local police.
“A monthly rent of 50,000 rupees is disproportionately high, even in Fort Kochi,” said a police source. “This is one of the main factors that made us suspicious.”
An intelligence officer told the Times of India that “Central intelligence got an alert about a covert operation being carried out by suspected Israeli agents after the terror attacks in which south Mumbai’s Chabad House came under attack and six Jews, including a Rabbi and his pregnant wife, were killed. A communication was sent to all states and it was our wing in Kerala that traced this couple at Fort Kochi.”
Indian agencies will question two suspected Israeli agents before they are deported. “We have traced the couple’s financial transactions. Preliminary investigations suggest similar Israelis are camping in various parts of the country,” an official said.
But a cursory examination of the facts at hand suggests that the Bernsteins were engaged in nothing more subversive than Lubavitch “farbrengen” get-together. Indeed, In their report, the state intelligence department said a group of people turned up at the couple’s rented house regularly and held meetings.
“These meetings lasted for hours in the night. They were under close surveillance”.
Zalman and Yaffa Bernstein were handed the deportation order last Monday, after undercover police officers, who had tracked them for a year, questioned them and filed a report.
Shneor Zalman, born 1984, and Yaffa, born 1988, entered India on multiple-entry visas.
Fort Kochi is a major tourist attraction for Jewish travelers, situated near the Mattancherry neighborhood, where Jews set up their first trading outpost centuries ago and built the country’s oldest synagogue in 1568.