Forty-three Bnei Menashe Jewish immigrants from India arrived in Israel on Thursday morning, bringing the total number of Bnei Menashe brought in to Israel this year to 410, the most ever recorded.
Bnei Menashe, who hail from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, are thought to be the descendants of the tribe of Menashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel exiled over 2,700 years ago. The organization Shavei Israel, lead by Michael Freund, has brought roughly 2,400 of the Jewish community back to Israel, with another 7,000 still waiting in India.
“It is so moving to see the Lost Tribe of Bnei Menashe returning to Zion and rejoining the people of Israel,” said Freund, who was recently awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism. "After 2,700 years, the Bnei Menashe are returning to our people and our land, and we won’t stop until all the remaining 7,000 community members still in India will be able to come here."
The Knesset decided last October to task Shavei Israel with bringing 900 Bnei Menashe to Israel by 2015.
Bnei Menashe community chairman Yochanan Phaltual arrived along with the new group of olim (immigrants) on Thursday, saying "this is a great day for me and my family, and for all of the Bnei Menashe."
"It is a dream come true, the dream of our forefathers, and we thank G-d that we have come home," added Phaltual, who was reunited with his father and siblings in Israel.
Joining Freund in welcoming the new immigrants was MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), who remarked on how moving it was to see the new arrivals in these times of tension, after three Israeli teens were abducted by Hamas terrorists last Thursday.
"The arrival of the Bnei Menashe this morning is a ray of light in these dark days. I could not control my tears as I watched each of the them kiss the huge mezuzah in the arrivals hall with tremendous fervor and joy," noted Lipman. "Hearing them sing 'v'shavu banim ligvulam' ("the children have returned to their borders') reminded me of the special times in which we live."
"All of us are struggling in these difficult days and praying for the safe return of our three boys and all our soldiers. The arrival of this group this morning - a group that for thousands of years dreamed of returning to Israel with full belief that it would happen - should remind us all of our strength and the special times in which we live," concluded the MK.
Kissing the largest mezuzah in the world at Ben Gurion Airport
Michael Freund and Dov Lipman greet Bnei Menashe Olim Nir Kafri