Ethnic violence has broken out in northeastern India this week, trapping the Bnei Menashe Jews. At least one has been killed and several; synagogues have been burned along with a sacred Torah scroll. Rioters are telling Bnei Menashe: “Go back to Israel where you belong.”
One Bnei Menashe, a father of four, was killed and four more people from the Bnei Menashe were injured as a result of the shooting. Ten other Bnei Menashe are missing after fleeing the violence. Rabbi Michael Freund, head of Shavei Israel, has been in contact with the community and reported that at least 210 homes belonging to Bnei Menashe families were also burnt to the ground.
The violence is between about 50,000 Kukis along with members of other predominantly Christian tribal communities in Churachandpur and adjoining districts in Manipur state, who are fighting the Meitei people, also known as the Manipuri people. The Bnei Menashe are allied with the Kuki.
Shmuel Suantek, a member of the community living in Manipur, told Ynet he was appealing to Israel for help. “We are begging and asking the Israeli government to bring us now to our country, to Israel,” he said.
The Indian army has been called in to intervene and the state governor on Thursday issued “shoot at sight orders in extreme cases” to local authorities, allowing district magistrates to shoot protesters.
“The Meitei are the majority in the state and have the power and the money,” Rabbi Freund told Israel365 News. ” The Meitei and the Kuki have hated each other for generations. Now, the Meitei are rampaging and attacking. The Bnei Menashe are suffering as a result of their ethnic affiliation with the Kuki. But in addition to that, there have been many cases in which some of the Meitei attackers have told them, ‘Go back to Israel where you belong’. So the attacks on the Bnei Menashe is not pure antisemitism but there have been some elements of that in the larger picture.”
“The disruption is widespread and there are now well over 150 families that are completely homeless, with all their belongings destroyed. So we were going into action. We’re trying to see what we can do to help the families who have been hit by this.”
In a trip that was planned before the current violence broke out, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will visit India next week.
According to the Shavei Israel website:
“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. And they continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.”