A 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern India early Monday morning killing at least nine people and injuring more than 90. The Bnei Menashe – who claim they are descendants of the lost tribe of Menashe, reported extensive damage to their community in the Indian state of Manipur.
The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. They claim their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh. They observe Shabbat and kashrut; celebrate the festivals and follow the laws of family purity.
In recent years, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have made Aliyah, and there are still 7,000 of the group living in India, 700 of whom were affected by the earthquake. The entire group is awaiting final permission to make Aliyah in 2016.
“The earthquake struck early in the morning and buildings shook violently,” said Tzvi Khaute, Shavei Israel’s emissary to Manipur and a member of the Bnei Menashe community. “Thank God no one among the Bnei Menashe was injured or killed. There is, however, extensive damage from the quake.”
Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, has launched an emergency relief fund to assist members of the Bnei Menashe community affected by the natural disaster.
“We are in touch with the leaders of the Bnei Menashe community throughout northeastern India. Miraculously no one in the community was harmed, but we are concerned by reports of damage to homes and property,” said Freund, adding, “I call on the Israeli government to bring them home to Zion as soon as possible.”