“We had a major breakthrough and thank God the aliyah is set to resume this summer, and we hope and pray to bring the first batch of 50 families, or about 250-300 Bnei Menashe immigrants, to Israel by the end of August,” said Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, which is behind the initiative.
Shavei, based in Jerusalem, hopes to bring to the Jewish state the remaining 7,000 Indian citizens who believe they are the Bnei Menashe, the descendants of Manasseh, one of biblical patriarch Joseph’s two sons and a grandson of Jacob.
Already Freund’s group helped facilitate the immigration of over 1,700 Bnei Menashe, with successive Israeli government’s allowing and then halting the process. In 2007, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s administration put the kibosh on the process, which is now being reopened.
Tribe members live in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, to which they say they were exiled from Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire. According to Bnei Menashe oral tradition, the tribe was exiled from Israel and pushed to the east, eventually settling in the border regions of China and India where most remain today. Most kept customs similar to Jewish tradition, including observing Shabbat, keeping the laws of kosher, practicing circumcision on the eighth day of a baby boy’s life, and observing laws of family purity.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief and senior reporter for WorldNetDaily.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York’s 770-WABC Radio, the largest talk radio station in the U.S., every Sunday between 7-9 p.m. His website is KleinOnline.com.