Jerusalem – In a meeting with Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, the Minister of Aliya and Absorption MK Penina Tamanu-Shata announced that in cooperation with the Interior Ministry, she is moving ahead with plans for the imminent Aliya of 722 members of the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India. The first group is anticipated to arrive in Israel after the Jewish High Holidays.
The minister made the announcement in a meeting held earlier this week with Shavei Israel’s Chairman and Founder Michael Freund, and Shavei Israel’s Coordinator for Bnei Menashe Tzvi Khaute. According to the minister, the funds necessary for the absorption of the new immigrants in Israel are included in the Ministry of Aliya and Absorption’s state budget proposal that is subject to approval by the government. Shavei Israel would cover the costs of airfare and transportation for the Bnei Menashe from India to the Jewish state.
At the meeting, the minister agreed to prepare a plan to bring the remaining 6,500 members of the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India to Israel over the next five years. Over the past two decades, thanks to Shavei Israel, more than 4,000 Bnei Menashe have already made Aliya and been absorbed successfully into Israeli society. In addition to transporting the Bnei Menashe to Israel, Shavei Israel operates a special absorption center in the Kfar Hasidim Youth Village where new immigrants learn Hebrew and complete their formal conversion under Jewish law prior to obtaining Israeli citizenship.
The meeting with the minister was also attended by 1st Pvt. Ayala Tova Hangshing, 23, a Border Police guard from the Bnei Menashe community who emigrated from India to Israel three years ago. Her relatives are included among the 722 immigrants waiting to make Aliya. Since women in Israel typically complete their obligatory military service by the age of 20, the IDF initially refused Hangshing’s request to be recruited. But Hangshing remained undeterred and insisted on serving the country in a combat role until the army relented and granted her wish. She currently serves among the IDF forces who guard the Cave of Machpelah in the heart of the old city of Hebron, where the Biblical forefathers of the Jewish people are buried.
The Minister of Aliya and Absorption MK Penina Tamanu-Shata said, “I am pleased to work with Shavei Israel towards bringing home the 722 Bnei Menashe who are eligible to immigrate to Israel in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and to ensure that the funds necessary for their absorption are included in the next state budget. I intend to work to the best of my ability to assist the Bnei Menashe through their immigration and absorption process.”
“I was delighted to meet with Israel’s Minister of Aliya and Absorption Penina Tamano-Shata to discuss the Bnei Menashe Aliya from India. I was impressed by her sincerity and determination to bring the Bnei Menashe back to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel. We look forward to working with her and we hope that she will succeed in the sacred Zionist task of bringing our people home,” said Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel.
The Bnei Menashe, sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh. Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel. Thus far, Shavei Israel has made the dream of Aliyah, immigration to Israel, possible for over 4,000 Bnei Menashe and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently, there are 6,500 Bnei Menashe awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.