Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shavei Israel
Staff-Sergeant Gershon Menashe (L), and Staff Sergeant Harel Paltuel are among some 215 Bnei Menashe who serve in the IDF.

Some 215 Bnei Menashe (sons of Manasseh) Jews who made Aliyah from northeastern India are serving as IDF soldiers fighting against Hamas and Hezbollah in Operation Iron Swords, 75 on active duty, most of them in combat units, and 140 are on reserve duty, Shavei Israel reported on Monday.

Out of Bnei Menashe olim of military age, nearly all men (99%) and 10% of women join the IDF, with 90% of females joining the National Service for religious reasons.


“The Bnei Menashe are dedicated Zionists and passionate about the State of Israel, its people, and their security,” said Shavei Israel’s founder and chairman, Michael Freund. “It is no coincidence that so many of them serve in combat units in the IDF, and we are proud of their willingness to risk their lives alongside other Israeli soldiers to defend the Land and people of Israel.”

One Bnei Menashe soldier, Natanel Touthang, 26, was recently injured by shrapnel from an exploding shell that Hezbollah fired from Lebanon into northern Israel. He sustained injuries to his eyes and hand and has undergone three surgeries. Touthang, who made Aliyah in 2018, serves in the Golani brigade.

Bnei Menashe on active duty include Staff Sergeant Ariel, 19, who was drafted 10 months ago and serves in the Sayeret Nachal special force; and Sergeant Azaria, 21, who serves in the Paratroopers brigade.

Among Bnei Menashe reservists are Staff Sergeant Harel Paltuel, 29, who serves in the Nachal brigade; Staff-Sergeant Gershon Menashe, 23, a combat driver; and Staff Sergeant Hei Khizkia, 23, in the Paratroopers brigade. They made Aliyah in 2014.

“Since the war broke out, Shavei Israel has received hundreds of requests from young community members in northeastern India asking to make Aliyah immediately,” said Freund. “Not only that – they are asking to join the IDF immediately to fight shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters.”

The Bnei Menashe group claims descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 2700 years ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh. The Bnei Menashe lost tribe continued to practice its Jewish heritage, including observing Shabbat, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals, and family purity.

Shavei Israel has made the dream of Aliyah possible for more than 5,000 Bnei Menashe and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. At present, another 5,000 Bnei Menashe are waiting to return to their ancestral homeland.

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