The government is expected to give final approval in the next few weeks to bring
to Israel more than 7,200 remaining members of an Indian community who claim
descent from one of the lost tribes of Israel.
The decision to allow the
last members of the Bnei Menashe to immigrate to Israel is being greeted with
excitement by local Evangelical Christian groups, who view it as fulfillment of
Biblical prophecy and who have pledged financial support for the
More than 1,700 members of Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel
over the last decade, but their aliya was subsequently halted in 2007 by the
government of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, even though the Israeli Chief
Rabbinate had previously recognized the community as “descendants of
Three months ago, the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and
Absorption, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, decided in principle
to bring to the Jewish state the remaining 7,232 members of the northeastern
The Bnei Menashe, Hebrew for Sons of Menashe, claim
descent from one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel who were sent into exile by the
Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago.
Their ancestors are believed
to have wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before
settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and
“I am very optimistic that within the next few weeks we will
at last have a historic breakthrough which will allow the lost tribe of Bnei
Menashe to return to Zion,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei
Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization which locates and identifies long-lost
He added that the aliya was likely to be spread out
over the next three to five years.
Israel’s “Law of Return” grants Jews
or descendants of Jews automatic citizenship and financial
Freund said that his organization was likely to cover most if
not all of the more than $20 million estimated costs of transporting the
immigrants to Israel from India, and their initial period upon arrival. The
government would cover most of their basic absorption costs.
At the same
time, the head of the most prominent Evangelical Christian organization in
Israel has pledged to help cover some of the costs of the
“We are absolutely dedicated to supporting this initiative
and helping the government of Israel in this venture,” said Juergen Buehler,
executive director of the International Christian Embassy in
“Many people in our constituents around the world will be very
excited to help out with this great initiative.”
The Evangelical leader
said that their target is to be able to finance one flight of immigrants to
Israel at the cost of a couple hundred thousand dollars.
“We believe we
will be able to make a very significant contribution to this endeavor,” he
The International Christian Embassy plans to begin soliciting funds
for the immigration at its annual Feast of the Tabernacles celebration in
Jerusalem next month, assuming the final government approval is taken by
The event, which is expected to attract more than 5,000
Evangelicals from around the world, is the single largest tourism event in
Jerusalem each year.
The Evangelical organization has a long record of
assisting in Jewish immigration to Israel over the years in keeping with their
fundamental belief that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land was foretold in
the Scriptures and heralds the return of the Messiah.