‘After 27 centuries of exile,’ 102 Indian Bnei Menashe head to Israel
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‘After 27 centuries of exile,’ 102 Indian Bnei Menashe head to Israel

Members of 'lost tribe,' to arrive Tuesday and Thursday, will join community in Nazareth Illit

  • Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community celebrating Hanukkah in Churachandpur on December 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
    Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community celebrating Hanukkah in Churachandpur on December 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
  • Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gather in Churachandpur, in the state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah on Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
    Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gather in Churachandpur, in the state of Manipur, to celebrate Hanukkah on Dec. 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
  • Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gathering in Churachandpur, in the Indian state of Manipur to celebrate Hanukkah, December 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
    Members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from across northeastern India gathering in Churachandpur, in the Indian state of Manipur to celebrate Hanukkah, December 8, 2015. (Shavei Israel)
  • Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, India, on their way to the airport, February 12, 2017. (Shavei Israel)
    Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, India, on their way to the airport, February 12, 2017. (Shavei Israel)
  • Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, en route to Israel, February 13, 2017. (Shavei Israel)
    Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, en route to Israel, February 13, 2017. (Shavei Israel)
  • Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, India, February 12, 2017. (Shavei Israel)
    Members of the “Bnei Menashe” Jewish community in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, India, February 12, 2017. (Shavei Israel)

JTA — One hundred and two members of the Jewish community in India, who trace their heritage to one of Israel’s lost tribes, are moving to Israel this week.

The immigrants, who hail from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram — home to the second largest concentration of the country’s Bnei Menashe community, as they are called — will arrive in Israel on Tuesday and Thursday. The move is being facilitated by Shavei Israel, a nonprofit that seeks to connect “lost” and “hidden” Jews to the Jewish state.

This is the first time in three years that members of Mizoram’s Bnei Menashe community have moved to Israel, according to Shavei Israel.

“After 27 centuries of exile, this lost tribe of Israel is truly coming home,” said Shavei Israel founder Michael Freund. “But we will not rest until all the remaining Bnei Menashe still in India are able to make aliyah as well.”

Some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel in recent years, with another 7,000 remaining in India.

The group plans to live in the city of Nazareth Illit, where other members of the community have already settled.

Freund, a conservative writer and former aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said his organization was hoping to bring more than 700 Jews from India to Israel this year.

In December, thousands of members of the Bnei Menashe community gathered, as they do each year, to celebrate Hanukkah in the town of Churachandpur, in the northeastern state of Manipur.

Among those making aliyah were Mizmor Sharon and her two children. Sharon’s husband Shomron died two weeks ago of cancer, before he could make the trip.

“My children and I are heartbroken that their father didn’t live to see his dream of making aliyah come true,” Sharon said. “But we are excited to be making this journey and to honor his legacy by building our new lives in the Jewish homeland. I am sure that he will be with us in spirit with every step that we take on the holy soil of Israel.”

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