Bnei Menashe 224.88.
(photo credit: Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum [file])
A group of over 100 Bnei Menashe who arrived here from India late last week spent an emotional first Shabbat in Israel this past weekend, as they sought to adjust to their new surroundings.
118 members of the community, which claims descent from a lost tribe of Israel, were brought here by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, which is housing them in Pardes Hanna.
The immigrants, who arrived on special tourist visas issued by the Interior Ministry, will spend the next few months studying Hebrew and Judaism under Shavei Israel's auspices prior to undergoing formal conversion by the Chief Rabbinate.
The group will shortly be joined by an additional 113 Bnei Menashe, bringing the total number of immigrants to 231. "This is the largest group of Bnei Menashe ever to come here," said Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel and a Jerusalem Post columnist. "We spent many months lobbying for permission to bring them, and we are grateful that they have finally fulfilled their dream of returning to Zion and to the Jewish people."
"This is an historic event for the Bnei Menashe," said Yigal Hanshing, who served as the community's president in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur prior to making aliya. "Thanks to Shavei Israel, we have come home."
Hanshing was greeted upon arrival by his son Avi, who made aliya several years ago and now serves in an IDF combat unit.
Over 1,200 Bnei Menashe already live in Israel, and another 7,000 remain in India awaiting permission to make aliya. "We will continue to work on their behalf and to press the Israeli government until all of the Bnei Menashe are able to come here," Freund said.