118 Bnei Menashe immigrants arriving in Israel

Indians coming on tourist visas under agreement worked out with Interior Ministry.

bnei menashe men 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
bnei menashe men 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
More than a 100 purported descendants of the lost tribe of Menashe were to arrive in Israel on Thursday and Friday. Seventy-eight members of India's Bnei Menashe community came by bus via Jordan on Thursday and 40 more were slated to land at Ben-Gurion Airport early Friday morning on an El Al flight from Bombay, said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, whose organization organized the operation. He said more than 100 more Bnei Menashe would arrive next week, and that everything had been coordinated with all relevant government authorities. The new arrivals are coming as tourists and not as immigrants, under an agreement worked out with Interior Minister Ronnie Bar-On's predecessor, current Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit. The newcomers had been in a bind since India forbids conversion, and so the group could not convert there and come to Israel under the Law of Return. Freund said they would convert here under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. Until four years ago, the Interior Ministry allowed 100 Bnei Menashe to come to Israel as tourists annually, and they then converted here and became Israelis, a policy that was ended by then-interior minister Avraham Poraz. More than 200 Bnei Menashe arrived this year as new immigrants, but then the Indian authorities forced Shavei Yisrael to stop processing them because conversion is forbidden there. Shavei Yisrael locates and identifies long-lost Jewish communities. More than 1,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel and 7,000 are waiting to come.