Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Lost Tribe of Israel?

I don't have much to add to this story, but I think that some readers will find it of interest.  "Bnei Menashe" means "sons of Manasseh," a reference to one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Seventy-eight members of India's Bnei Menashe community entered Israel by bus from Jordan on Thursday and 40 more were scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport early Friday morning on an El Al flight from Mumbai (Bombay)....

Freund said that the "Aliyah" (Jewish immigration to Israel) operation had been coordinated with all relevant government authorities. The Bnei Menashe entered Israel on tourist visas and will undergo conversion to Judaism in Israel. Then they will receive permanent status as citizens....

The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrian empire over 2,700 years ago. They reside primarily in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh. In recent years alone, over 800 members of the community have made Aliyah, thanks largely to the efforts of Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group that reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people. They reside mainly in Kiryat Arba, south of Jerusalem, and Beit El and Ofrah, north of Jerusalem....

The existence of the Bnei Menashe, known in India as the Manmassi tribe, was publicized in the Jewish world about 30 years ago by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichayil. When it was observed that the tribe's members maintained certain ancient traditions unlike any observed in the Indian subcontinent, investigation revealed that the rituals were of Jewish origin....

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar sent a delegation of two rabbinic judges to India about three years ago, to conduct a thorough investigation of the community and its origins. After a review of their findings, it was decided that the Bnei Menashe are in fact descendants of Israel and should be drawn closer to the Jewish people.

The full story is here.

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