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Home at Last!

ICEJ sponsors resumed aliyah flights for Bnei Menashe

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2 Jan 2013 (All day)
Home at Last!

Smiling broadly beneath a bright woollen cap, Ephraim Manlun readily admitted that he was “totally lost for words”.

“There’s an unexplainable feeling in our hearts, an overwhelming excitement, emotionally and spiritually”, he said. “For over two thousand years, we’ve been waiting for this moment.”

Ephraim Manlun speaks with ICEJ media director David Parsons (Herbert Kelly photo)This “moment” was the arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport of Ephraim and 52 other members of the Bnei Menashe from northeast India on 24 December, aboard the first flight of a renewed wave of aliyah for this ancient Israelite tribe. This meant that – for at least these 13 families – more than 2700 years of exile and wanderings were over.

Ephraim said his fellow travellers were all aware of the historic weight they were carrying.

“We know that we represent the hopes of many generations”, he explained. “We are the ones who have the privilege of finally stepping foot back in the land of Israel.”

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem also was privileged to be involved in the return of this special group of Bnei Menashe by sponsoring their flights home to Israel.

Check out our photo gallery of the Bnei Menashe's journey home »

The Bnei Menashe (“Sons of Manasseh”) are a people living in northeast India who claim descent from one of the ten “Lost Tribes” of Israel. In 732 BC, their ancestors were exiled by the Assyrians into the region of today’s Iran. From there, they journeyed eastward along the Silk Road to China, where for centuries they formed part of the community of Kaifeng Jews. They later wandered southward and eventually settled in the states of Mizoram and Manipur, located in an isolated enclave of India laying between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

From there the Bnei Menashe continued to cling to their biblical traditions and identity. They kept the Sabbath and observed kosher laws, celebrated the Jewish festivals, and practiced sacrificial rites.

Bnei Menashe arriving at Ben-Gurion Airport in December (Herbert Kelly photo)Rediscovered in modern times, their Israelite ancestry was officially recognised by Israel’s rabbinic authorities in 2005. This allowed an initial wave of 1,700 Bnei Menashe to make their way home, but their aliyah was stopped two years later.

Michael Freund, head of the organisation Shavei Israel, has been working tirelessly ever since to reopen the way for them to reconnect with Israel and the Jewish mainstream. At his urging, the Israeli government recently approved a process which will enable the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe to come home in groups of around 250 at a time.

The first group of 274 Bnei Menashe are currently arriving on weekly flights from India to Israel via Tashkent, and the next group is expected to start arriving in March. The Christian Embassy is sponsoring their journey home by covering the costs of their airline tickets.

“Our support for the return of the Bnei Menashe is based on God’s promises to Israel to ‘bring your descendants from the east’, as we read in Isaiah 43:5”, said Dr. Juergen Buehler, the ICEJ Executive Director. “We are thrilled to partner with Shavei Israel in making this dream come true for these precious sons and daughters of Zion.”

When the initial flight landed on Christmas Eve, ICEJ representatives were there to greet them, along with some 100 members of the Bnei Menashe community already living in Israel for several years. Though still a distinct looking people, the crowd of relatives and friends waiting anxiously in the Arrivals Hall also reflected the diversity of Israeli society. Amid the eager welcoming party could be seen one Bnei Menashe man wearing the pressed uniform of an IDF officer while another sported the long trademark side-curls and white garments of the Breslov Hassidic sect.


CBN News report on the Bnei Menashe's return

There were many tearful embraces as brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces all joined in the happy family reunions.

Tzvi Khante, one of the earliest Bnei Menashe pioneers to arrive in Israel nearly 13 years ago, explained that the veteran community can now help the newcomers adjust to life in Israel a lot easier than they did. He noted that the early arrivals had already proven to the Israeli public that the Bnei Menashe are close-knit families instilled with a good work ethic, and they also make patriotic citizens.

“This is about returning to our land, our people and our Torah”, insisted Tzvi, who coordinates the Bnei Menashe aliyah efforts for Shavei Israel. “It also means we are moving that much closer to the redemption of Israel.”

“This is one of those moments where you really feel the hand of God at work in history”, noted Michael Freund. “Despite the long exile and wanderings of the Bnei Menashe, they never lost sight of who they are or where they came from, or where they one day dreamt of returning.”

“This is a development of profound historic significance. God is re-gathering the children of Israel from some of the most remote places on earth. No one can deny this.”

“Another thing we cannot overlook is that Jews and Christians are joining together to make this happen, just as the Hebrew prophets foretold”, added Freund. “This is a miracle as well. We deeply appreciate the assistance of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and our other Christian friends.”
 



Over 7,000 members of the tribe of Mahasseh are waiting in Northern India to return home to Israel. You can join us in being a part of the fulfillment of prophecy and help finance more flights for these precious people.


 

 

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