MK Oded Forer
MK Oded ForerYonatan Sindel/Flash90

Seven members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community of India were killed when a rocket struck a synagogue in Manipur, the Knesset Diaspora Affairs Committee announced Tuesday.

The rocket strike is not believed to have been deliberately targeted at the synagogue of Bnei Menashe community. However, the death toll underscores the vulnerability of the community and the importance of facilitating their Aliyah to Israel, the committee members stated.

Committee chairman MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) called on the Aliyah and Integration Ministry to make bringing Bnei Menashe refugees to Israel a priority and criticized the ministry for failing to do so following the outbreak of the Kuki-Meitei conflict in May 2023, which led to the displacement of many Bnei Menashe. "We have been asking the government ministries for six months and are not getting any answers," he said.

MK Pnina Tamano-Shata (National Unity Party) also accused the government of "dragging its feet" in assisting the Bnei Menashe community.

Michal Willer Tal, the head of the Foreign Ministry's Southeast Asia desk, told the committee on Tuesday that the Bnei Menashe community is not being targeted for its members' Jewish faith, but is in danger due to the wider ethnic conflict in the region. She advised that Israel's involvement in the Aliah process be kept "low profile" due to the potential for causing diplomatic problems with the Indian government.

Zvi Hauta, the representative of the Bnei Menashe community in Israel, said: "Last night, the Bnei Menashe community buried seven people who were killed as a result of a bomb falling near the synagogue. I am begging to let this community make Aliyah. Every day they stay in India and do not immigrate to Israel, they are putting their lives at risk. I am not worried about employment, everyone will get along, I worry about the members of the community who are still alive and just want to immigrate to Israel."

About 5,500 Bnei Menashe still reside in India, while about 5,000 members of the community are now in Israel. The sect claims to be descended from the tribe of Menashe, the son of the Biblical Joseph, which was among the ten tribes exiled from the northern Kingdom of Israel 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian Empire. In 2005, then-Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recognized the Bnei Menashe as Jewish. However, the members of the community have been required to undergo Orthodox conversion to be resettled in Israel.