Netanyahu’s Advice To Adopt “Namaste” – The Hands-Off Indian Style Of Greeting To Ward Off COVID-19 Goes Viral


When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu suggested to Israelis to adopt Namaste – the Indian style of greeting one another – instead of shaking hands to avoid spreading the coronavirus at a press conference on Wednesday, he didn’t realize how widely reported his words would be in India, international media outlets and social media.

Later on Wednesday and Thursday, Netanyahu’s suggestion was widely reported in the press by English language Indian news sites, international news websites, Indian YouTube channels which broadcast that portion of the speech, one of them even translating Netanyahu’s suggestion in English and all forms of social media.

One news website noted that Netanyahu even demonstrated to reporters how the Indians perform Namaste and another site stressed that Netanyahu’s suggestion was a sign of his closeness with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s familiarity with Indian customs and traditions are not surprising,” wrote a reporter on New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) website.

“Mr. Netanyahu is known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with their bonhomie being widely discussed in Indian and Israeli media. Mr Netanyahu visited India in January 2018 while PM Modi traveled to Tel Aviv in 2017. The leaders had received each other at the airports.”

“‘Just avoid shaking hands as I do,'” NDTV quoted Netanyahu. “‘You can try to implement the Indian system of Namaste or say another word like shalom, but find a way, any way of not shaking hands,’ Mr. Netanyahu said.”

“Benjamin Netanyahu also demonstrated how Indians greet each other with ‘Namaste’,” NDTV concluded.

According to Kan News reporter Amichai Stein, the below video shows Indian members of parliament discussing Netanyahu’s suggestion.

Namaste is a traditional Indian method of both greeting and taking leave from others and is carried out by placing both hands together with palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, with or without a slight bow of the head, but the bow is a sign of respect to the one being greeted. The word Namaste means: “I bow to the divine in you.”

It remains to be seen if Namaste helps spare India, the world’s second most populated country, from the large-scale spread of the coronavirus. A total of 29 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, including 15 Italian tourists, in the country of 1.37 billion people. Most of the current cases were linked to the group of Italian tourists but cases have also been confirmed in the city of Agra, home to the Taj Mahal.

Indian government officials are implementing increasingly tighter restrictions and are testing all people entering the country. Those diagnosed with COVID-19 have been quarantined and are receiving medical care.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)


  1. The use of the word Namaste together with this gesture is part of the Hindu religion and according to halacha would be totally unacceptable.
    Yeshiva World would do better to have someone religiously comment on its use.

  2. A hint of caution here: if the “namaste” greeting has any religious significance in Hinduism, there might be a problem with frum Jews using it. Perhaps someone reliable could research this and present the issue to a posek. In the meantime, one could also use a slight bow such as the Japanese use to show good will without physical contact.