A new group of immigrants from India arrived in the Jewish state on Thursday, the latest in a series of flights to Israel for the self-proclaimed descendants of one of the biblical Lost Tribes of Israel.
Seventy-eight Bnei Menashe arrivals landed at Ben Gurion Airport, according to Shavei Israel director Rabbi Michael Freund, whose organization has worked with the community and was instrumental in organizing the aliyah. The flight was the first in a series of three; the expected arrival of the other two planes next week will bring the total of newcomers to approximately 250.
Thursday night’s group brought the number of Bnei Menashe immigrants to Israel to more than 3,000.
The last major arrival of Bnei Menashe took place in November.
Shavei Israel has turned to a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the group’s immigration.
“Certain large donors who have made much of the aliyah possible are not in the position this time around to help,” a statement from Shavei Israel’s fundraising page said.
The migrants were welcomed in a ceremony where Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) hoped his own experience as an immigrant from Ukraine could empower the new arrivals.
“Twenty-five years ago, when I was only 18 years old, I came to this exact spot and sat exactly like you,” the minister recalled.
The new arrivals will be the first Bnei Menashe group to settle in the Golan Heights, a point Elkin called a “historic moment,” as the Golan is part of the land allocated in the Bible to the tribe of Menashe.
“You have gained back your tradition. I wish you a successful absorption, and wish you that, in 25 years’ time, perhaps a minister of absorption from the Bnei Menashe will stand here and welcome new immigrants,” said Elkin.
Former Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar recognized the Bnei Menashe as a Lost Tribe in 2005, although he insisted they undergo conversion to be recognized as Jews.
The mass aliyah of the community had been paused for a number of years before being restarted in 2013. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe live in India, according to Shavei Israel.