Lost tribe returns to Israel - after 2700 years

Presumed descendants now living in India of the Bnei Menashe, one of the ten lost tribes mentioned in the Bible, will leave India for Israel soon after 2700 years of absence, Israeli government sources have confirmed.

AsiaNews reports that a group of 218 people from a mountainous area of north-eastern India are about to be welcomed in Israel . These are the presumed descendents of the Bnei Menashe tribe, one of the 10 lost biblical tribes lost after the exodus from the Promised Land, mentioned in the Bible.

The Bnei Menashe believe that an old Mizo-Kuki harvest festival song called Sikpui Hla which features events paralleled in the Book of Exodus, such as enemies chasing them over a red-coloured sea, quails, and a pillar of cloud is clear evidence of their Israelite ancestry.

Michael Freund, founder of Shavei Israel, an association assisting "lost Jews" to return to Israel, described this as a "turning point".

He said: "This is a major historical event, because these members of a lost tribe of Israel can return home after 27 centuries."

Members of the tribe have already undergone official conversion in India despite protests - even at diplomatic level - in New Delhi. The rabbis sent to the Indian states of Mizoran and Manipur by Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, followed the conversions of the tribal people and declared them "descendants of the Jewish people".

The tribe has around 7,000 members; 1000 already live in Gaza strip and in settlements in the West Bank. Lawyers who pleaded their cause with the Israeli and Indian governments said the move of the lost Jews "was not a political but a practical decision". Settlements in those areas, in fact, were the only ones that allocated funds "to help their brothers return to their homeland".

Mizoram is a predominantly Christian state while most of the population of Manipur is Hindu. At the start of the twentieth century, tribal members converted to Christianity.

"A vast majority of the people do not know Hebrew although many of them are now learning the language. The rites officiated are however like the one practiced in Israel," said Zaitthangchungi, a local researcher and author of a book 'Israel Mizo Identity'.

Photo: Bnei Menashe flag

After millennia in India, lost tribe returns to Israel (AsiaNews, 30/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bnei Menashe (Wikipedia)
Shavei Israel (Wikipedia)
Shavei Israel website
Book of Exodus (Wikipedia)

3 Oct 2006