young members of Bnei Menashe_370.
(photo credit: Courtesy Shavei Israel)
For the first time in five years, a large group of Bnei Menashe immigrants from
northeastern India is slated to make aliya this summer.
The Shavei Israel
organization, which assists descendants of Jews to reconnect with their roots,
is slated to bring the Bnei Menashe, who claim descent from the tribe of
Menashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
Some 50 families,
numbering upward of 250 people, are expected to come before the end of August
with the approval of the Interior Ministry, to be followed by another group
later in the year. The families will be settled in the Galilee in coordination
with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.
“The resumption of the Bnei
Menashe aliya is long overdue,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, who
is also a Jerusalem Post columnist. “The last time we were able to bring a group
was in 2007,” he said.
More than 1,700 Bnei Menashe moved to Israel over
the last decade, but former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government halted their
immigration, even though the rabbinate had hitherto recognized the community as
“descendants of Israel.”
Freund, who previously served as an aide to
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, launched an intensive lobbying campaign which
resulted in the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption’s decision
last June to bring the remaining 7,232 Bnei Menashe to the Jewish state. Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman headed the committee.
Shavei Israel is
expected to cover the cost of transporting the immigrants to Israel as well as
the initial period after their arrival, while the government will pay for their
“The return of this lost tribe to Zion more than 2,700 years
after their ancestors were exiled by the Assyrian empire is nothing less than a
miracle,” Freund said.