In Pictures: Indian Jewish tribe heads ‘home’
Members from Bnei Menashe tribe, recognised by Israel as descendants of lost tribes, set to reunite with roots.
A “lost” Jewish tribe in India waits patiently for a flight to Israel after it lifted a visa ban.
The Bnei Menashe (sons of Menasseh) live in India’s northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur. In 2005, the Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recognised them as descendants of the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel,” exiled by the Assyrians in the eighth century BC.
Their emigration to Israel is supported and sponsored by Shavei Israel, a non-profit organisation that aims to reconnect “lost and hidden Jews” with the people and state of Israel. The group also funds the return of Bnei Anousim of Spain, Portugal and South America and the hidden Jews of Poland.
Around 2,000 have already moved to Israel, but immigration was halted after the government stopped giving them visas.
In October, the Israeli government cleared the visas of 899 – but between 7,000 to 9,000 wait in India and Myanmar.
Scepticism and debate over their ancestry and faith abound in Israel and India.
“I feel angry when people say I want to go to Israel for economic reasons. Israel has been promised to me, I am only fulfilling my destiny,” said Mangjajin Jin, whose Jewish name is Shamaya.
He says he is looking forward to “reuniting with his roots” and hopes that the entire community will move to Israel.