By Linda Chhakchhuak
Aizawl, Oct 21 : Recognised as one of the Biblical Israel’s “Lost Tribes” by the chief Rabbinate of Israel and called Bnei Menashe, the members of the community are still waiting to be told the “good news” that their migration to Israel has been accepted by Tel Aviv.
Last week, an Israeli news website reported that the Knesset had approved the application for 899-odd members of this group to migrate to Israel as permanent citizens of that country under the terms of aliya (with citizens’ rights).
The application was made by Shavei Israel, an organisation with the aim of bringing all Jews “home to Israel” including the Lost Tribes who are “descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel who were exiled by the Assyrian empire more than 2,700 years ago.”
Liana Meir Phaitual Hazan, who heads the Shavei Israel concern here, told this correspondent that till date they had not received anything officially by the head of his organisation in Israel. “We have only been told that there is such a plan by friends who read newspapers, but we have not been intimated yet,” he said.
He added that from past experience, aliya for Bnei Menashe is a long time-taking process as there are many formalities to be completed. “If they have made this decision at the Knesset just last week then we will come to know by and by as our leaders get things organised,” he said.
If all goes according to plan, about 200 Mizo Jews will be leaving for Israel by December this year, 400 in 2014 and another 300 in 2015.
According to Michael Freund, the head of the organisation, about 2,000 Bnei Menashe have done aliya since the eighties, the last major operation being in 2006.
Hundreds of Mizos who ascribe to this belief undertook the Giyur ritual in a specially-built Mikve at Zuangtui on the outskirts of the capital here formalising them into Jews giving them full citizens’ rights and support on landing in Israel.
However, the mass migration and conversion was stopped by protests from some Mizoram-based Christian lobbies and the BJP forcing the governments of Israel and India to halt further conversions in deference to these sentiments.
Last year, 270 Bnei Menashe were taken to Israel and with other small group migrations totalling about 380 migrants leaving for Israel shores in the past few years. Bnei Menashe’s Israeli roots are recognised by the Israeli government but they have to undergo ritualist conversion to become Jews, a ritual which they all undergo on reaching their “homeland”.
According to Shaveli Israel, about 2,000 Bnei Menashe are living in Israel now. As many as 9,000 remain in India and Myanmar. They want to take them all to Israel.