The recent group of Bnei Menashe immigrants from northeastern India, who made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel) last week, paid an emotional first visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem Thursday.

Singing the verse from Jeremiah 31, "And your sons shall return to their borders", the group of 230 descendants of a Lost Tribe of Israel recited the daily afternoon and evening prayers in fluent Hebrew, with tears streaming down their cheeks.

The group was brought to Israel last week by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, which assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. 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.

Once the immigrants had a chance to settle in, Shavei Israel organized buses to bring them to Jerusalem for a day of touring and sightseeing in the nation's capital. 

"It was an extremely moving scene," said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. "As the Bnei Menashe began the prayer service, they were joined by various other Jews from around the world – American immigrants, Chasidic Jews, Sephardim and IDF soldiers in uniform. There, in a nutshell, was the embodiment of the 'ingathering of the exiles'."

Shavei Israel Director Michael Freund with the Bnei Menashe worshippers

The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrian empire over 2,700 years ago. They reside primarily in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh. In recent years alone, over 1,400 members of the community have made aliyah, thanks largely to the efforts of Shavei Israel,

Another 7,000 Bnei Menashe are still in India, waiting to come.

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