India's 'lost tribe' dreams of return to Israel

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by ejazr, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    India's 'lost tribe' dreams of return to Israel - Yahoo! News

    In a synagogue in northeast India, a group of men pray for the chance to "return home" to a country they have never seen and which their ancestors fled nearly 3,000 years ago.

    "India is not our country," says Haniel Reuben, 72, one of the eldest members of a tiny community that claims to have descended from the Manasseh -- one of the biblical "lost tribes" of Israel exiled in 720 BC by Assyrian conquerors.

    "Our forefathers migrated and settled here. Our home is Israel and we will be reunited with our people one day or another," Reuben said.

    The Bnei Menashe, as the community is known, comprise around 7,200 members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe who live in the northeast Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur near the border with Myanmar.

    Their oral history tells of a centuries-long exodus through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China, all the while adhering to certain Jewish religious practices, like circumcision.

    In India they were converted to Christianity by 19th century missionaries and, in reading the bible, recognised stories from their own traditions that convinced them they actually belonged to the Jewish faith.

    "We are the lost tribe," insists Reuben, who lives in a ramshackle two-storey wooden home set against a scenic background of the misty, ash-coloured Manipuri foothills.

    A lunisolar Jewish calendar hangs on the wall of his living room, while a mezuzah, or parchment, with verses from the Torah is fixed to the front door frame of the house in Manipur's state capital Imphal.

    He prays three times a day with his eyes facing west "towards Jerusalem."

    The ancestral claims of the Bnei Menashe -- rejected by other members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo -- began to draw attention in the 1980s from Jewish organisations dedicated to identifying "lost Jews."

    In the late 1990s, groups of Bnei Menashe were brought to Israel where they formally converted and settled.

    But the real breakthrough came in 2005 when Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar officially recognised the entire community as "descendants of Israel" -- a crucial step in securing their "right of return."

    The process was halted by new Israeli government policy in 2007, but last July the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption, agreed to the return of the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe.

    "It is a huge project," said Yochanan Phaltual, the Indian representative for Shavei Israel, an Israeli-based organisation that reaches out to descendants of Jews around the world.

    "It is very complicated as it requires the involvement of all government departments," Phaltual said.

    The head of Shavei Israel, Michael Freund, who has lobbied hard for years on behalf of the Bnei Menashe, said he was confident the immigration would finally happen.

    "This is simply a bureaucratic process, and like all bureaucratic processes, it takes time," Freund said in an e-mail.

    "I hope that we will soon hear good news, and that the Bnei Menashe will be allowed to return to the land of their ancestors."

    Living as a tiny minority poses numerous problems for people like Talya Bem, a 45-year-old widow and mother of three, particularly when it comes to observing orthodox customs and rituals.

    "I was born as a Jew," Bem says. "I live in India but my heart is in Israel.

    "I want to go there as soon as possible. We can't follow all the commandments of the Torah here," she adds tearfully, comforted by her 18-year-old daughter, dressed smartly in a long black skirt and purple top.

    According to Phaltual, Bnei Menashe families almost never go out to eat in local restaurants or buy food from street vendors.

    "Nothing is kosher here. All the eateries serve pork and we fear that our food will get mixed up with that," he said.

    Manipur has a primarily agrarian economy and is one of the least developed states in India -- one of only five with a per capita income of less than 30,000 rupees ($600).

    But Phaltual bristles at the suggestion that the Bnei Menashe are motivated less by religious feeling and more by the prospect of a more comfortable, material life in Israel.

    "Most of our community is well-settled. It is a very wrong conception that economic considerations have fuelled our dream of return," he said.

    Phaltual and Reuben both converted to Judaism in the 1990s.

    "We studied the Bible the way Christians do," Reuben said. "But slowly as we grew up, we started discussing how some of our customs matched with the tradition followed by ancient Israelites."

    At the Churachandpur synagogue, which boasts a small "mikveh" or pond used for ritual purification, Shlomo Haokip, 26, has been giving Hebrew classes for the past four years to help people prepare for life in Israel.

    "Knowing Hebrew is one of the pre-requisites for formal conversion to Judaism in Israel," said Haokip, who lives with his family in the premises of the synagogue in Churachandpur town, 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Imphal.

    "I hold classes for children during the summer vacation. We also organise Hebrew learning camps every now and then. It's a difficult language, and even I am not an expert. But once I go to Israel, I will become more fluent."

    Some Bnei Menashe are less sanguine about the issue of return, and feel impatient about the delays in the immigration process and the religious and bureaucratic hoops they feel forced to jump through.

    "The British baptised us during their rule of the country and we corrected the mistake by taking up Judaism again," said 31-year-old Moses, who gave just one name.

    "We are Jews, why should we undergo conversion again? No one should question our identity. We don't feel welcome in India and we are not welcome in Israel. We are neither here nor there."

    His angry outburst is cut short by the women of his family.

    "Justice will be done," one of them tells him calmly. "We have waited for 3,000 years. We can wait a few years more."
     
    LETHALFORCE likes this.
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  3. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    How many were originally lost, and how many were found?
     
  4. KS

    KS Bye bye DFI Veteran Member

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    “I live in India but my heart is in Israel”

    “I live in India but my heart is in Israel” | World | DAWN.COM

    CHURACHANDPUR, India: In a synagogue in northeast India, a group of men pray for the chance to “return home” to a country they have never seen and which their ancestors fled nearly 3,000 years ago.

    “India is not our country,” says Haniel Reuben, 72, one of the eldest members of a tiny community that claims to have descended from the Manasseh – one of the biblical “lost tribes” of Israel exiled in 720 BC by Assyrian conquerors.

    “Our forefathers migrated and settled here. Our home is Israel and we will be reunited with our people one day or another,” Reuben said.

    The Bnei Menashe, as the community is known, comprise around 7,200 members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe who live in the northeast Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur near the border with Myanmar.

    Their oral history tells of a centuries-long exodus through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China, all the while adhering to certain Jewish religious practices, like circumcision.

    In India they were converted to Christianity by 19th century missionaries and, in reading the bible, recognised stories from their own traditions that convinced them they actually belonged to the Jewish faith.

    “We are the lost tribe,” insists Reuben, who lives in a ramshackle two-story wooden home set against a scenic background of the misty, ash-coloured Manipuri foothills.

    A lunisolar Jewish calendar hangs on the wall of his living room, while a mezuzah, or parchment, with verses from the Torah is fixed to the front door frame of the house in Manipur’s state capital Imphal.

    He prays three times a day with his eyes facing west “towards Jerusalem.”

    The ancestral claims of the Bnei Menashe – rejected by other members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo – began to draw attention in the 1980s from Jewish organisations dedicated to identifying “lost Jews.”

    In the late 1990s, groups of Bnei Menashe were brought to Israel where they formally converted and settled.

    But the real breakthrough came in 2005 when Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar officially recognised the entire community as “descendants of Israel” – a crucial step in securing their “right of return.”

    The process was halted by new Israeli government policy in 2007, but last July the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption, agreed to the return of the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe.

    “It is a huge project,” said Yochanan Phaltual, the Indian representative for Shavei Israel, an Israeli-based organisation that reaches out to descendants of Jews around the world.

    “It is very complicated as it requires the involvement of all government departments,” Phaltual said.

    The head of Shavei Israel, Michael Freund, who has lobbied hard for years on behalf of the Bnei Menashe, said he was confident the immigration would finally happen.

    “This is simply a bureaucratic process, and like all bureaucratic processes, it takes time,” Freund said in an e-mail.

    “I hope that we will soon hear good news, and that the Bnei Menashe will be allowed to return to the land of their ancestors.”

    Living as a tiny minority poses numerous problems for people like Talya Bem, a 45-year-old widow and mother of three, particularly when it comes to observing orthodox customs and rituals.

    “I was born as a Jew,” Bem says. “I live in India but my heart is in Israel.”

    “I want to go there as soon as possible. We can’t follow all the commandments of the Torah here,” she adds tearfully, comforted by her 18-year-old daughter, dressed smartly in a long black skirt and purple top.

    According to Phaltual, Bnei Menashe families almost never go out to eat in local restaurants or buy food from street vendors.

    “Nothing is kosher here. All the eateries serve pork and we fear that our food will get mixed up with that,” he said.

    Manipur has a primarily agrarian economy and is one of the least developed states in India – one of only five with a per capita income of less than 30,000 rupees ($600).

    But Phaltual bristles at the suggestion that the Bnei Menashe are motivated less by religious feeling and more by the prospect of a more comfortable, material life in Israel.

    “Most of our community is well-settled. It is a very wrong conception that economic considerations have fueled our dream of return,” he said. Phaltual and Reuben both converted to Judaism in the 1990s.

    “We studied the Bible the way Christians do,” Reuben said. “But slowly as we grew up, we started discussing how some of our customs matched with the tradition followed by ancient Israelites.”

    At the Churachandpur synagogue, which boasts a small “mikveh” or pond used for ritual purification, Shlomo Haokip, 26, has been giving Hebrew classes for the past four years to help people prepare for life in Israel.

    “Knowing Hebrew is one of the pre-requisites for formal conversion to Judaism in Israel,” said Haokip, who lives with his family in the premises of the synagogue in Churachandpur town, 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Imphal.

    “I hold classes for children during the summer vacation. We also organise Hebrew learning camps every now and then. It’s a difficult language, and even I am not an expert. But once I go to Israel, I will become more fluent.”

    Some Bnei Menashe are less sanguine about the issue of return, and feel impatient about the delays in the immigration process and the religious and bureaucratic hoops they feel forced to jump through.

    “The British baptised us during their rule of the country and we corrected the mistake by taking up Judaism again,” said 31-year-old Moses, who gave just one name.

    “We are Jews, why should we undergo conversion again? No one should question our identity. We don’t feel welcome in India and we are not welcome in Israel. We are neither here nor there.”

    His angry outburst is cut short by the women of his family.

    “Justice will be done,” one of them tells him calmly. “We have waited for 3,000 years. We can wait a few years more.”
     
  5. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    If after 3000 years, these idiots don't feel welcome here, then they should kicked out.
     
    balai_c and Mad Indian like this.
  6. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    I think we should not kick anybody out. If they voluntarily leave, it's their choice. No one should be kicked out. India is for all.
     
    StarShip Enterprise likes this.
  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Odd fellows.

    If Israel does not recognise them, why take it out on India?

    But then, one must also check the veracity of the story. It has been generated by YAWN!
     
    W.G.Ewald and Tronic like this.
  8. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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  9. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Has been merged.
     
  10. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    They have mongolied features so how can they be lost tribe ? if they looked like semetic people or even iranian then one could understand that there claim had some weight!
     
  11. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Must be some Mongoloid looking Jews.
     
  12. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    I didn't understand how come pork-less food is unavailable in the NE.

    I am sure Halal meat would be available because of Muslims living there. And having Kosher meat would be no different. Infact, atleast for Muslims, if Kosher is available we are allowed to eat that. And the reverse is also allowed. There are some extra precautions like for example cooking milk and meat together is unkosher and hence not allowed. Very strict Jews require only Jews to prepare the food as well though.
     
  13. lemontree

    lemontree Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    Me too. I live in India, but my heart is in the beaches of Florida and Rio....:namaste:
     
  14. SADAKHUSH

    SADAKHUSH Senior Member Senior Member

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    Goa beaches are closer. Why not go there?
     
  15. peacecracker

    peacecracker Regular Member

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    sudden move of embracing judaism by protestent christians in the north eastern state claiming they are Semites while they have strong oriental features. ??
     
  16. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    They are nothing but Indians, as simple as that.

    That could be Israeli wannabes, but Israelis, they are not, and their Mongoloid features is evidence enough.

    Again, if it were true, i.e., if I were to be wrong, I need to see why.
     
  17. LalTopi

    LalTopi Regular Member

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    I suspect that if they carried out genetic tests they would match the local NE India population in general. Still, good luck to them, India has a long history of providing shelter to religious refugees - e.g. the Parsees.
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I think they should be allowed to go.

    Israeli Govt should be convinced.

    Failing that, these good men be told to decide where they want to go and the GOI should pay them their fare and let them go to where they want to go. Palestine maybe.
     
  19. Mr.Ryu

    Mr.Ryu Regular Member

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    This is BS after 2500+ of our hospitality they say I live in India but Heart is in Israel :( they must be more grateful to be alive in first place shame on them deport them out of India already
     
  20. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Nothing wrong.

    There are chaps who live in a country and they claim that their heart is with God!

    And yet, they don't die! :eek:
     
  21. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Perhaps a similar case:

    The History of Ethiopian Jews


    The History of Ethiopian Jews
     

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