Obed Hrangchal, 28, a mixed martial arts and kickboxing champion in his native India who is now a yeshiva student in the Israeli city of Ma’alot, last Friday became his new country’s kickboxing champion.
Competing in the 57-kg. (125 pounds) division, Hrangchal took the championship in the town of Kfar Yasif in the Galilee in an event drawing 150 competitors from clubs throughout Israel.
Hrangchal is a religiously observant member of the Bnei Menashe community, descendants of one of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel, who grew up in Aizawl, a city of 300,000 in northeastern India. Hrangchal made Aliya with his family in 2020 thanks to the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization. His parents, Gabriel and Ruth Hrangchal, live in Nof HaGalil, near Nazareth.
“I am very happy with this win. I always dreamt of making Aliya and becoming an Israeli champion. I now dream of representing Israel in international kickboxing competitions,” Hrangchal said.
Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s founder and chairman, said, “we are very proud of Obed’s incredible accomplishment and we look forward to his representing Israel abroad.”
“Obed is another outstanding example of how the Bnei Menashe can contribute to Israeli society, each in his or her own way,” Freund said. “I hope that we will soon see him winning medals for Israel worldwide.”
David Ramon, Obed’s coach at the Ramon Gym Club, in Ma’alot, expects him to earn a spot on Israel’s national team and compete in the Senior Kickboxing World Championship in Portugal in November.
“Obed is a charming and well-liked guy with an extraordinary sporting talent who trains very hard,” he said. “I have no doubt that a bright future awaits him.”
Thus far, more than 5,000 Bnei Menashe have made Aliya to Israel in the past two decades, thanks largely to Shavei Israel. Another 5,000 remain in India, all of whom wish to make their home in the Jewish state.
Originally from the village of Thinghlun in the Indian state of Mizoram, the Hrangchals were the only Jewish family in town.
In 2013, they sold their home and farmlands to move to the capital city of Aizawl in order to join the local Jewish community while awaiting the opportunity to make Aliya. Without the family farm, Gabriel, Obed’s father, has been left without a proper profession.
Being Jewish makes it more difficult to find steady work since they do not work on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. While taking leave on these days they often find that they are replaced.
Despite these difficulties, Obed has succeeded in garnering widespread recognition and has won awards in martial arts from the Mizoram State Sport Council and the Mizoram State Wushu Association, which are affiliated with the Indian Olympic Association as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“I started practicing martial arts from a very young age, about 6 years old, but without proper instruction,” reports Obed Hrangchal. “As I grew up, I steadily improved and then I began to compete at the state level in 2014, when I competed in Chinese Kickboxing or Wushu and won second place. That same year, I began to study Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) under an instructor.”
The Bnei Menashe, or "Children 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.
Their ancestors 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.
Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity.
They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Thus far, Shavei Israel has brought to Israel over 5,000 Bnei Menashe, and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently, there are 5,000 Bnei Menashe awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.