On October 24, the government passed an historic decision, one that paves the
way for the return of a Lost Tribe of Israel to Zion.
which received unanimous ministerial approval, will allow 275 members of the
Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India to make aliya.
Coming at a
time of increasing uncertainty for the Jewish state, this momentous development
should infuse us all with some much-needed optimism regarding the
After all, the Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of
Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who were exiled by the Assyrian
Empire more than 27 centuries ago. The community, which numbers 7,232 people,
resides primarily in the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, along the border
with Burma and Bangladesh.
Though a great distance separated them
geographically from the rest of the Jewish people, their hearts and their
aspirations, centered on the goal of return, were never truly
Just as the people of Israel have done for centuries, the Bnei
Menashe turned in prayer toward Jerusalem, confident that despite whatever
travails they might face, nothing could stand in the way of their
dream. And that dream is now coming to life, demonstrating once again the
unbreakable power of the Jewish spirit.
The cabinet’s decision was more
than five years in the making. In the middle of 2007, the Olmert
government inexplicably chose to freeze the aliya of the Bnei Menashe, despite
the fact that more than 1,700 had already moved here, thanks primarily to Shavei
Israel, the organization that I founded and chair.
For the past several
years, I have lobbied and cajoled, prodded and nudged, wandering the halls of
the Knesset and making a nuisance of myself in various government
I could not accept the fact that the government of Israel
would shutter the gates in front of these wonderful people. The Bnei Menashe are
proud Jews and committed Zionists. They live observant lifestyles, volunteer for
combat units in the IDF, and work hard to support themselves and their families.
Only 4-5 percent are reliant on social welfare benefits, which is half the
A growing number of the community’s youth are studying
at various institutions for higher education, and several have been ordained as
The Bnei Menashe are a blessing to Israel and the Jewish people,
and there is no good reason to deny them the right to rejoin our
Thankfully, with support from the Foreign Ministry, the Interior
Ministry and the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, we were at last able to overturn
the previous government’s decision, and the freeze it imposed is a thing of the
As a result, people such as Avraham Haokip, his wife and two small
sons, will soon be making aliya. They will reunite with Avraham’s parents and
brother, who moved here previously and whom they have not seen in more than five
Avraham Haokip is a graduate of the University of New Delhi, where
he studied information technology and software development.
He works as a
computer operator for an Indian television station, but will be leaving behind
his promising career to build a new life in Israel.
And then there is
David Gangte, a 29-year-old Bnei Menashe entrepreneur who lives is Manipur,
India, with his wife, son and daughter. Gangte has built up a thriving
import-export business, and managed to teach himself Hebrew to the point where
he can deliver a discourse on the weekly Torah portion in the ancient tongue of
Sadly, the government won’t be covering the costs of the
impending immigration. But thanks to some generous Jewish leaders in Europe and
the United States, as well as some of Israel’s Christian friends, the Bnei
Menashe will be coming home.
The International Christian Embassy
Jerusalem has taken it upon itself to cover most of the cost of the first flight
Others, such as Bridges for Peace, are also committed to
assisting the Bnei Menashe with getting settled into their new
Just as the prophet Isaiah (49:22) foretold, the nations of
the world will be carrying our sons and daughters back home to Zion.
government decision is a breakthrough, and in the coming years we hope to bring
the remaining 7,000 Bnei Menashe here as well.
The return of the Bnei
Menashe to Israel is an inspiring story of Jewish faith, survival and
dedication, and it marks the closing of an historical circle after 27 centuries
It is a miracle of biblical and historic proportions, and we
are witnessing the words of the Prophets come to life before our very
Interestingly, the week in which the government passed the decision
was that of the weekly Torah portion of Lech Lecha, when G-d instructs our
father Abraham to leave behind his home and make aliya.
But I prefer to view it as Divine providence, for G-d’s
directive to Abraham is one that echoes down across the generations, calling out
to all the people of Israel to make their way home to Zion. And now, at
last, after 2,700 years, Manasseh’s children will finally be able to do
The writer is chairman of Shavei Israel which
assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to Israel and the