"The time for violence has come to an end, and the era of peace and dialogue between Muslims and Jews has begun - that was the message delivered by Maulana Jameel Ahmed Ilyasi, secretary-general of the All-India Association of Imams and Mosques, during an interview with Ynetnews.
"Ilaysi's organization represents half a million imams, who are the main religious leaders of India's 200 million Muslims.
"In an extraordinary visit to Israel, organized by the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) India office, Ilaysi arrived as part of a delegation of Indian Muslim leaders and journalists.
"Asked to address Hamas's call for jihad to destroy Israel, Ilaysi said, "I believe in peace and this is the message I take. I don't believe in anything that destroys another country."
"The religious leader also said the time had come for Pakistan to establish official relations with Israel. "This is the right thing to do," he added.
"Ilaysi's arrival was not trouble-free, however, as a number of protests held by Indian Muslims were held in opposition to the visit.
"Indian Muslims do not have a very good impression of the Israelis. The protesters were saying, you are going to Israel, a country which humiliates the Muslims. That's the impression that they have," Ilaysi explained. He said the protests symbolized the natural opposition which arises to positive acts. "When you do good deeds, you are bound to have challenges and hurdles," he added.
"My impression was initially that the Israelis are certainly dominating Muslims out here. Once I came here, that impression completely changed," Ilaysi said. "I saw the reality on the ground, the mutual respect Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews have for each other. Constant conflict is not the reality here," Ilaysi said, describing his visit to the Israeli-Arab village of Abu Gosh, frequented by Israeli Jews.
"A visit to Jerusalem's holy sites only served to reinforce what Ilaysi described as his "pleasant surprise."
"I saw that Muslims, Christians and Jews lived side by side happily, not at each other's throat," he said.
"Ilaysi added that the Indian government has lessons to learn from Israel on how to deal with Muslim minorities. "I was pleasantly surprised to know that Sharia (Islamic law) code is being supported by the Israeli government, whereas in India only local Muslims implement it. That is unique," he said."