KT in Israel: A little India in Jerusalem's old city

Anjana Sankar and Juidin Bernarrd/Jerusalem
Filed on November 28, 2020

(KT/Juidin Bernarrd)

(KT/Juidin Bernarrd)

(KT/Juidin Bernarrd)

'It is believed that Sufi Saint Baba Farid from India came to the Holy city of Jerusalem in 1200 AD'

I visited the Indian Hospice inside Jerusalem’s Old City today. It is a ‘little India’ hidden in the swarming Muslim quarters of the old city. This 7,000 square metre area is a neutral and quiet spot standing in stark contrast to the bitter controversies of the land it is surrounded by. When you pass through the Herod’s Gate, an old entrance to the Muslim Quarter, the green gate bearing the name 'Indian Hospice' is unmissable.

“Welcome to India inside Jerusalem” Nazeer Hussain Ansari, the custodian of the 800-year old guesthouse, warmly welcomed us.

It is believed that Sufi Saint Baba Farid from India came to the Holy city of Jerusalem in the year 1200, and meditated in a cave for 40 days - and since then, Muslim pilgrims from India on their way to or from Makkah would stop and pray at the site. For nearly a century, now the Ansari family originally from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, has been taking care of this place.

“My grandfather came from India back in 1924 and he was appointed as the director and trustee of the Indian Hospice,” Ansari, told Khaleej Times. Though residents of Israel since 1924, members of the Ansari family still hold Indian passport.

The place, though located in Israel, is under the Central Waqf Council of India with Ansari family as the trustee - and open only to people of Indian citizenship or heritage.

It has several guest rooms, a library and a private mosque built around a courtyard with a big lemon and orange trees heavy with fruits. The room where Baba Farid meditated is also preserved in a separate room.

“We have been welcoming Indians coming to the Holy City and offering them lodging and Indian food for the last 100 years, and we will continue the tradition,” said Ansari.

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