An Indian woman known as the ‘curry queen of Israel’ will accompany Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other high-ranking officials visiting India next week.Renowned chef and restaurateur Reena Pushkarna said in a phone interview from Tel Aviv on Tuesday that she is “very honoured and excited” to be a part of the prime ministerial delegation.
“This really means a lot to me as I wear both hats – Indian and Israeli,” she said. Born to an Indian Army colonel, Pushkarna made Tel Aviv her home more than three decades ago.
Netanyahu will be the second Israeli PM to visit India after diplomatic ties were established between the two countries 25 years ago.
Pushkarna will bring a special gift for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for whom she cooked for the first time more than a decade ago. “I am carrying a small Hamsa for Modi ji to wish him good luck with all his endeavours and hope to get an opportunity to give it to him personally,” she said.
Shaped like an eye in the middle of an open palm, the Hamsa is a Jewish symbol used for luck and protection.
So what are her expectations from the visit?
“Politicians do the talking…they open the doors. And people like you and I on the ground make people-to-people things happen,” she said.
When Modi visited Israel last July, Pushkarna was responsible for catering arrangements for the Indian delegation and even served up an elaborate vegetarian spread at a dinner hosted by Netanyahu and his wife Sara at Beit Rosh HaMemshala – the Israeli PM’s residence.
Pushkarna and her team of seven chefs prepared three meals daily for the Indian PM, whether or not he ate at the seven-star King David hotel where world’s top leaders stay while visiting the country.
That wasn’t the first time Pushkarna cooked for Modi. She was responsible for catering when Modi visited Israel 11 years ago for a business event as the chief minister of Gujarat.
She is the convener of the Israel chapter of the Overseas Friends of BJP and flew to India for Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2014.
Her restaurant in Tel Aviv, called Tandoori, was the setting for Norway-mediated talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that led to a historic peace accord in 1993.
It’s the same restaurant where a young Benjamin took Sara out on a date 30 years ago. Netanyahu made a mention of that dinner date during his joint press conference with Modi in July 2017.