The Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India celebrated the holiday of Sukkot this year with sets of Lulavim and Etrogim (palm fronds and citrons) sent to them from Israel by the Shavei Israel organization prior to the onset of the holiday.
Shavei Israel is a non-profit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, with the aim of strengthening ties between the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world, among them the Bnei Menashe of India.
The Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for "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. They live in India's northeastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram, and are descended from ancestors who 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.
Bnei Menashe with the Israeli lulavim and etrogim / Israel news photo: Shavei Yisrael
Throughout their exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. They also continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder, Michael Freund said, "We hope the New Year will bring good news and that the dream of the Bnei Menashe to come to Israel will soon become a reality.” The worshipers offered a special plea during their holiday services, Freund related, asking to fulfill their age-old dream to make aliyah to Israel during the coming year.
In recent years, “Shavei Israel” has brought some 1,500 Bnei Menashe to Israel, including 450 in the past three years who settled in the Upper Galilee. Another 7,000 still remain in India.