Daily Israel Report

Poraz Freezes Aliyah From India and Peru

First Publish: 3/14/2004, 3:11 PM / Last Update: 3/11/2004, 9:14 PM

Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of the ultra-secular Shinui party has announced that Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) from India and Peru will be frozen, purportedly due to the fact that immigrants from those countries undergo only Orthodox conversions and often choose to live in Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) according to a report in the Jewish Press.

Poraz’s declaration was made during a discussion with leaders of Amishav, an organization founded in 1975 to reach out to people of Jewish ancestry who are interested in returning to the Jewish people and homeland.

Amishav director Michael Freund told the Jewish Press that there are currently 7,000 to 8,000 individuals from the Bnei Menashe tribe in northeastern India who claim they are descendants of the tribe of Menashe. “In the past decade we have brought more than 800 Bnei Menashe to Israel. Most of them live in Gush Katif, Kiryat Arba or Shavei Shomron,” he said.

The number is the result of an agreement with Chief Rabbinate officials, permitting the new immigrants to undergo formal conversion to eliminate any question as to their 'Jewishness'. According to Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, a rabbinical judge dealing with the conversion of Bnei Menashe, the Knesset Absorption Committee decision is one of "Ignorance, racism, and unjustifiable hate".

Freund told the Jewish Press that Amishav had arranged for a meeting between Bnei Menashe leaders and Minister Poraz, where Poraz made it clear that he was not happy with the fact that they all undergo Orthodox conversion.

”He would like to see them undergo a Reform or Conservative conversion,” Freund said. “Poraz,” he added, “is also unhappy with the fact that most live in communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Because of those two issues he has frozen this Aliyah – and this is something we are fighting to change. My goal is that by the end of this decade all of those 7,000-8,000 people will be living in Israel as Orthodox Jews. And we will achieve it regardless of what Poraz says.”

Freund told Arutz-7 that the reason Bnei Menashe immigrants settled in Yesha is because no one else was willing to permit them to enter their community. Amishav contacted officials in various municipalities outside of Yesha, but none were willing to accept the news immigrants. Freund explained that the Bnei Menashe are not eligible to immigrate to Israel under the "Law of Return" and as such, Amishav undertakes the responsibility of raising funds for their tickets and all other expenses. Only after they have completed the conversion process and are certified by the Chief Rabbinate do they receive their immigration benefits package. This is one of the reasons no community was willing to accept them since there is no financial incentive attached to the deal. Freund added that requests were made to the leaders of the municipalities in Mitzpei Ramon, Dimona, Netanya, and Ra'anana, all of whom refused to accept the new immigrants. This, he explained, prompted the decision to turn to Yesha officials, seeking a housing solution for the new immigrants. They were welcomed in Yesha communities despite the hardships involved in assisting them in their new country without financial assistance from government agencies.