On Wednesday morning, 235 new Olim belonging to the Bnei Menashe community landed in Israel. Hailing from Manipur in northeast India, they have preserved their Jewish tradition over the generations. Their Aliyah was promoted by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tameno-Shete, the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
“The 235 new Olim who landed this morning join the more than 4,000 Bnei Menashe who already live in Israel and have been integrated into the Israel society successfully, and I would like to congratulate each and every one of them for finally returning home, to the Land of Israel,” said Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel. “We still must not forget that 6,500 members of the community are still waiting in India and longing for the moment when they too will be able to come to Israel and it is our duty to do everything we can to make this happen.”
“Welcome to Israel, it’s good to have you home,” said Minister Tameno-Shete, adding, “For years you dreamed about returning to Zion and now we have managed to make the dream come true.”
“According to the policy I lead in the ministry, we work to bring Jews to Israel from all the countries of the world, regardless of race, gender, origin, or income level. I’m excited for the new olim and happy to see them here with us at home,” she said.
The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, claim to be descended from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 2,700 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.
Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing Shabbat, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals, and following the laws of family purity. They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
So far, Shavei Israel has made the dream of aliyah a reality for more than 4,000 Bnei Menashe and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently, 6,500 Bnei Menashe are awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.