A Lost Tribe of Israel Celebrates its Return

Hundreds of veteran Bnei Menashe immigrants from northeastern India gathered in Kiryat Arba this week to celebrate their return to Israel and the Jewish people after 27 centuries of exile.

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IsraelNN Staff, | updated: 13:43

A special day over the Sukkot festival was arranged on their behalf by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization. The Bnei Menashe were treated to a series of fun and educational activities that ranged from drum lessons to Torah lectures to face painting for children and the construction of a traditional Indian bamboo hut. The event was organized in cooperation with the Kiryat Arba Municipal Council and its chairman, Tzvi Katzover.

The Bnei Menashe, who reside in the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, near the border with Burma, claim descent from the tribe of Menashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel exiled by the Assyrians over 2,700 years ago.

Nearly 1,000 members of the community have made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) over the past decade thanks largely to the work of Shavei Israel, headed by Michael Freund, and Amishav, headed by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichayil.

A central theme of this week's celebration was the excitement running through the community over the impending arrival in Israel next month of 218 new Bnei Menashe immigrants, the largest group ever to come here at one time.

The group, which underwent conversion to Judaism last year in India by a rabbinical court dispatched by Israel's Chief Rabbinate, is slated to make aliyah in late November. It will be the first batch of Bnei Menashe immigrants allowed into the country since 2003, when Israel's Interior Ministry decided to halt their arrival.

The Jewish Agency, headed by Ze'ev Bielski, will oversee the group's arrival in the Jewish state, as well as various aspects of its absorption in the country.

Through its team of emissaries, Shavei Israel operates three Jewish educational centers in India for the Bnei Menashe, where they study Hebrew and Jewish tradition. All of the organization's work is in accordance with Jewish law and is under the guidance and supervision of Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

For more information, contact office@shavei.org