Obed Hrangchal, 26, a Jewish-Indian Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Kickboxing champion is set to make Aliyah to Israel and hopes to represent Israel in international competitions.
Hrangchal has already won two Gold, seven Silver and two Bronze national medals in Wushu, Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Karate.
What makes Hrangchal’s story fascinating is that he is religiously observant and a member of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from northeastern India, descendants of one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Together with his parents, Gabriel and Ruth Hrangchal, and his sister Lucy, Obed is slated to fulfill a life-long dream after the Jewish High Holidays and make Aliyah thanks to the Shavei Israel organization.
Obed and his family will reside in the city of Nof HaGalil in the north after they complete their absorption process in Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Hasidim.
“I have always dreamt of making Aliya to the Land of Israel and I am very excited at the prospect of doing so. If possible, I would certainly like to join the IDF and I would be honored to represent Israel in MMA and Kickboxing competitions,” Obed said.
“We are very proud of Obed and his impressive accomplishments and we look forward to welcoming him and his family here in Israel along with the 700-plus other Bnei Menashe whom we will be bringing on Aliya in the coming year”, said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund.
“Obed is another outstanding example of how the Bnei Menashe can contribute to Israeli society and I hope that we will soon see him ascending the stage and winning medals for Israel worldwide,” he added.
More than 4,000 Bnei Menashe have made Aliyah to Israel in the past two decades, thanks largely to Shavei Israel. Another 6,500 remain in India, all of whom wish to make their home in the Jewish state.
At a meeting in August, Israel’s Minister of Aliya and Absorption Penina Tamanu-Shata told Freund that, in cooperation with the Interior Ministry, she was moving ahead with the Aliya of 722 Bnei Menashe, including Obed Hrangchal and his family.
Originally from the village of Thinghlun in the Indian state of Mizoram, the Hrangchals were the only Jewish family in town. In 2013, they sold their home and farmlands to move to the capital city of Aizawl to join the local Jewish community while awaiting the opportunity to make Aliya. Without the family farm, Gabriel, Obed’s father, has been left without a proper profession.
Being Jewish makes it more difficult to find steady work since they do not work on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. When taking leave on these days they often find that they are replaced.
Despite these difficulties, Obed has succeeded in garnering widespread recognition and has won awards in martial arts from the Mizoram State Sport Council and the Mizoram State Wushu Association, which are affiliated with the Indian Olympic Association as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“I started practicing martial arts from a very young age, about six years old, but without proper instruction,” Obed shared. “As I grew up, I steadily improved and then I began to compete at the state level in 2014, when I competed in Chinese Kickboxing or Wushu and won second place. That same year, I began to study Mixed Martial Arts under an instructor.”
Obed is excited about his upcoming Aliyah to Israel and, like other young people from the Bnei Menashe community, he doesn’t just want to be in Israel, and would like to contribute to the country. He would like to continue his MMA training and competition in the Holy Land, with the hope of competing on behalf of Israel and representing his homeland.
The Bnei Menashe, sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. 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. Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity.
They continued to have the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.