Bnei Menashe

Returning home to Israel after their tribe’s 2,700-year-old exile, hundreds of Indian Jews made Aliyah in 2018.

By: United with Israel Staff

In the largest exodus yet from India, 432 Jews from the country have come home to Israel in 2018.

Called the Bnei Menashe (the sons of Menashe), these Jews are believed to be the descendants of the lost tribe of Menashe, one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel which were exiled from ancient Israel in the 8th century BCE, 2,700 years ago.

“I have been weeping silently for months whenever the thought of leaving my home, my family struck me. Yet, the yearning to return to the Holy Land is too strong,” Nemchin Touthang, a 57-year-old Jew from Manipur’s Churachandpur district, told the Indian Express last week.

She is one of the 228 Jews who left Manipur on Sunday to permanently settle in Israel. The widow left behind four of her six children to unite with the two who had migrated to the Promised Land nearly a decade earlier.

Their immigration is organized by Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit that describes itself as “the only Jewish organization today that is actively reaching out to ‘lost Jews’ in an effort to facilitate their return [to Israel].”

“I will not be coming back to Manipur, because my religion means much more to me,” Touthang said just before her departure at Imphal Airport.

There are over 9,000 members of the Jewish community still living in India’s northeastern states.

According to data from Shavei Israel, nearly 3,000 Jews have made Aliyah (immigrated) to Israel, and thousands more are waiting to return.

The first wave came in 2006 with 213 members, followed by a second mass emigration of 233 people in 2007. However, the latest wave is the largest, as 432 have made Aliyah in 2018 – 204 in February, followed by 248 this month.

“More than 2,700 years after their ancestors were exiled from the Land of Israel, the Bnei Menashe are returning home and proving time and again that they have a strong desire to integrate into Israeli society and make a real contribution to the state,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel.

The Bnei Menashe were officially recognized as one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel by the Rabbinic Court of Jerusalem in 2005.