Obed Hrangchal, a recent immigrant to Israel from India, became the Jewish state’s kickboxing champion on Friday.
Competing in the 57 kilogram (125 pound) division, Hrangchal took the championship in the town of Kfar Yasif in the Galilee at an event that drew 150 competitors from clubs throughout the country.
A mixed martial arts and kickboxing champion in his native India, Hrangchal is now a yeshiva student in the Israeli city of Ma’alot.
He is a religiously observant member of the Bnei Menashe community who grew up in Aizawl, a city of 300,000 in northeastern India. Hrangchal made aliyah with his family in 2020 with the help of the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization. His parents, Gabriel and Ruth Hrangchal, live in Nof HaGalil, near Nazareth.
“I am very happy with this win. I always dreamed of making aliyah and becoming an Israeli champion. I now dream of representing Israel in international kickboxing competitions,” said Hrangchal.
Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s founder and chairman, said, “We are very proud of Obed’s incredible accomplishment and we look forward to his representing Israel abroad.”
Obed is another “outstanding example” of how the Bnei Menashe can contribute to Israeli society, “each in his or her own way,” said Freund. “I hope that we will soon see him winning medals for Israel worldwide,” he added.
David Ramon, Obed’s coach at the Ramon Gym Club, in Ma’alot, expects him to earn a spot on Israel’s national team and compete in the Senior Kickboxing World Championship in Portugal in November.
Thus far, more than 5,000 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah to Israel in the past two decades, thanks largely to Shavei Israel. Another 5,000 remain in India, all of whom wish to make their home in the Jewish state.
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, they say, 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 nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
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 in order to join the local Jewish community while awaiting the opportunity to immigrate to Israel.