A total of 248 Jews, including infants and elderly, from India’s north-eastern Bnei Menashe community on Tuesday landed at the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv as immigrants and to start a new life in Israel. They include 50 families, 24 singles, four infants under the age of two, and 19 people over the age of 62. Their immigration was approved by the Israeli government in October.
After landing, they went through the immigration process. “Some 90 per cent of them have completed their aliyah (immigration) permit process and soon all of them will be taken to a Shavei Israel absorption centre in the Nordiya moshav close to Netanya,” a Bnei Menashe community member present at the airport told PTI.
Shavei Israel is a non-profit organisation which has led the movement to bring back Jews looking to immigrate to Israel. “They will complete their quarantine period at the moshav (an agricultural commune) and spend some three months there going through the formal absorption process, including learning Hebrew. Following that they are likely to be settled in the north in the Nazareth Illit area”, he said.
Some 2,437 people from the Bnei Menashe community have so far immigrated to Israel from the north-eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram since 2003, the ministry of Immigration and Absorption said. I am happy that I have the merit to bring the Bnei Menashe to Israel after many years of waiting, Minister for Immigration and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata said.
There have been intense debates around the Jewishness of Bnei Menashe in the past but in 2005, the then Chief Rabbi of the Sephardi community, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, recognised them as descendants of Israel paving the way for their immigration to Israel. The community claims that it belongs to the Menashe tribe, one of the ten tribes pushed into exile by the Assyrians some 2700 years ago.