The lost tribe of Isreal longing to return to “Promised Land”
IMPHAL | Jun 12 : “Of course, I love Manipur where I was born and brought up. It gives me nostalgic feelings leaving behind relatives, friends and neighbours. But, at the same time, I am happy and very excited that my long cherished dream to returned to the Holy Land is going to be fulfilled,” said a 45 years old Naomi Lotjem, here in Imphal International Airport.
Naomi, a widow, is one of the Manipur Jews who left Imphal for Isreal as a part of ‘Operation Manashe’ (Hebrew for ‘Sons of Manasseh).
A native of Churachandpur, Naomi, expressed her desire to re-unite with her sons and relative who are already living there in Israel. She is the last one of her family to make the trip “Alijah” (‘up towards God’ in reference to the Jewish journey to the Promised land) to Israel.
She was born in a Christian family and was converted to Judaism 7 years back, believing herself as one of the descendants of Manasseh, one of the ten “Lost Tribes of Israel”.
Expressing his joy, a father of 7 children, Bethzalal Singson said, “This is a culmination of an Israeli dream. I have been waiting so long to move to the promised land which God chose for my ancestors”.
A 60-year-old, Bethzalal has been living in Nagaland and followed Judaism since his youth.
He and his family members shifted to Churachandpur, seven years back and staying in a rented house since to make the trip “Alijah” to Israel. All members of his family including his wife and 7 children left Imphal for the Holy Land.
Among others who were leaving Manipur for Israel, notably, Benzoheth Singson was the head of his family who left behind his eldest son and his daughter-in-law. “We, the rest of my family members are now leaving our birthplace for the Promised land. I hope, someday, my eldest son and my daughter-in-law will join us in Israel,” he said. He converted to Judaism from Christianity at a young age. After about 40 years his dream to return to the Holy Land realized on June 10, with his wife, Amila and his three Children.
On June 10, about 190 Jews left Imphal to permanently settle in Isreal. As per record the periodical migration of Manipur Jews to Isreal is believed to be highest this year with 438 people leaving the country. Of the total 204 Jews left in the month of February last and another 44 more joined the migration on June 12 in addition to the June 10 migration.
The scene at the Imphal International Airport on June 10 was filled with emotion as near and dear ones of those who were about to depart, turned up to bid farewell to each other.
The Bnei Manashe identify themselves as the descendants of Jewish people. They are part of Chin-Kuki-Mizo (CHIKIM) tribes from the Northeastern India who were said to be exiled by the Assyrian empire more than 2700 years ago.
It is said that Israel’s Northern Kingdom was established after the death of King Solomon. According to Bible, the 10 tribes of Israel in the Northern Kingdom were taken into captivity by Assyria in about 740 BC. Ever since they have been lost to history; one of them- Manasseh, had been found in India.
According to Shavei Israel, the ancestors of Bnei Manashe wandered through the Central Asia and the Far East for centuries before settling in what is now Northeastern India along the border with Myanmar and Bangladesh. Throughout their sojourn in exile, they continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing Sabbath, keeping Kosher, celebrating festivals and following the laws of family purity. And they continued the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Around 3000 people from Manipur and Mizoram have already migrated to Israel after embracing Judaism. But, there are still more than 7000 Bnei Manashe living in India, longing to migrate to the Holy Land.
Shavei Israel is an Israeli-based non-profit organisation dedicated to assisting descendants of Jews and the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’ to reclaim their root, thereby making Alijah to Israel. The aim of the organisation is to strengthen ties between Israel people and the descendants of Jews around the World. Shavei Isreal was founded by Micheal Freund.
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