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Bnei Menashe

Bnei Menashe
Total population
9,000 (estimate)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Kuki, Mizo, Hebrew
Judaism, Messianic Judaism
Related ethnic groups
Mizo, Kuki, Chin, Kachin, Shan and Karen.

The Bnei Menashe (Hebrew: בני מנשה‎, "Sons of Menasseh") are a small group within the indigenous people of India's North-Eastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram; since the late 20th century, they claim descent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel and have adopted the practice of Judaism.[4] The Bnei Menashe are made up of Mizo, Kuki and Chin peoples, who all speak Tibeto-Burman languages, and whose ancestors migrated into northeast India from Burma mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries.[5] They are called Chin in Burma. In the late 20th century, an Israeli rabbi investigating their claims named them Bnei Menashe, based on their account of descent from Menasseh. Most of the peoples in these two northeast states, who number more than 3.7 million, do not identify with these claims. Some have supported other movements to separate from India.

Prior to conversion in the 19th century to Christianity by Welsh Baptist missionaries, the Chin, Kuki, and Mizo peoples were animists; among their practices were ritual headhunting.[6] Since the late 20th century, some of these peoples have begun following Messianic Judaism. The Bnei Menashe are a small group who started studying and practicing Judaism since the 1970s in a desire to return to what they believe is the religion of ancestors. The total population of Manipur and Mizoram is more than 3.7 million. The Bnei Menashe number below 9,000; several hundred have emigrated to Israel.

In 2003-2004 DNA testing showed that several hundred men of this group had no evidence of Middle Eastern ancestry. A Kolkata study in 2005, which has been criticised, suggested that a small number of women sampled may have some Middle Eastern ancestry, but this may also have resulted from intermarriage during the thousands of years of migration.[6] In the early 21st century, Israel halted immigration by Bnei Menashe; it resumed after a change in government. The chief rabbi of Israel ruled in 2005 that the Bnei Menashe was recognized as part of a lost tribe, allowing aliyah after formal conversion. Early Bnei Menashe immigrants were assigned as residents of settlements in the Gaza Strip before these were withdrawn by changes in Israeli policy. To reduce tensions with India about religious activities in "sensitive areas" of the Northeast, where there has been separatist activities and violence, Israel is requiring Bnei Menashe who want to emigrate to go to Nepal to complete formal conversions to Judaism before aliyah.


  • History 1
    • Biblical background 1.1
    • Oral history 1.2
    • "Return" to Judaism 1.3
    • History of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo 1.4
    • Influence of revivalism 1.5
  • Work of aliyah groups, Amishav and Shavei Israel 2
  • DNA testing results 3
  • Acceptance 4
  • Political issues in Israel and India 5
  • Legends 6
  • Timeline modern 7
  • See also 8
  • References and notes 9
  • Further reading 10
  • Films 11
  • External links 12


Biblical background

In the time of the first temple, Israel was divided into two kingdoms. The southern one, known as the Kingdom of Judah, was made up mostly of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi. Most Jews today are descended from the southern kingdom. The northern Kingdom of Israel was made up of the remaining ten tribes. In approximately 721 B.C.E., the Assyrians invaded the northern kingdom, exiled the ten tribes living there, and enslaved them in Assyria (present-day Turkey).

Oral history

The Bnei Menashe say their oral history of 2,700 years describes their escape from slavery in Assyria to Media/Persia. From there they moved to what is now Afghanistan, mostly through less-traveled areas to avoid being recaptured and taken back into slavery. From Afghanistan they traveled toward Hindu Kush and proceeded to Tibet, then to Kaifeng, reaching the Chinese city around 240 B.C.E. The Bnei Menashe believe that while in China, their ancestors were enslaved again. after 20 years of settling in china at around and between 220–206 bce by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. enslaved their ancestors to build the wall of china, due to the heavy work, a short time deadline and difficult conditions. their ancestors were forced to leaved China moved to Southwest of china bordering between India and Burma in the hilly Regions where they lived freely.

During their years there, remaining Israelite descendants were killed and survivors started assimilating. The former slaves fled and lived in caves. When the group was expelled from China in 100 C.E., their "leather scrolls" were confiscated and burned. At that point different groups went in various directions. Some went down the Mekong River into Vietnam, Siam (Thailand), and Malaysia, and the Philippines. Others migrated to Burma and into northeast India. These people were referred to by others as Shinlung, the "cave dwellers." Today, descendants of these peoples are known locally as Shinlung, some Kuki, Mizo, Lushai or Mar.

In 1894, Christian missionaries reached Manipur, India, and worked to convert the local peoples. The Kuki, having been brought up with an oral history of descent from an ancestor known as Manmaseh or Manmasi, and other stories, believed they heard familiar elements in some of the Bible stories. This contributed to their decision to convert to Christianity. They believe one of their songs, which they think dates from the ancient migration, refers to what they have learned is the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt.

"Return" to Judaism

As of the 21st century, the Bnei Menashe have come to believe that the legendary Kuki-Mizo ancestor Manmasi[7] was the Hebrew Menasseh, son of Joseph. This group of Chin-Kuki-Mizo people began a Messianic movement during the 1950s. While believing that Y'shua (Jesus) is the promised messiah for all Israelites, these pioneers in the early 1960s adopted observance of the Jewish Sabbath, holidays, dietary laws and other Jewish customs and traditions which they learned from books. They had no connections with other Jewish groups in the diaspora or in Israel. On May 31, 1972, some Messianic communities founded the Manipur Jewish Organization (later renamed United Jews Organization, NEI), the first Jewish organization in northeast India.

After these people established contacts with other Jewish religious groups in Israel and other countries, they began to practice more traditional aliyah. He investigated this group's claims to Jewish descent in the 1980s. He named the group as Bnei Menashe.[8][9]

In the late 20th century, many of the Bnei Menashe started studying normative Judaism. Hundreds emigrated to Israel, some completing the required formal conversions there to be accepted as Jews. Critics thought the government's policy of settling the Bnei Menashe immigrants in the unstable Judea, Samaria and Gaza Strip was part of a recruiting campaign to help increase Israel's population. Others criticised these people as economic migrants, and not true Jews. In 2005, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel accepted them as Jews due to the devotion displayed by their practice through the decades, but still required formal ritual conversion to be accepted as Jews. Later that year, Israel began to refuse to issue visas to these peoples after India objected to Israeli teams entering the northeast states to perform mass conversions and arrange aliyah.

History of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo

Prior to their conversion to Christianity in the 19th century, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo practiced animism; ritual headhunting of enemies was part of their culture. Depending upon their affiliations, each tribe identifies primarily as Kuki, Mizo, or Chin. The people identify most closely with their subtribes in the villages, each of which has its own distinct dialect and identity.[10] They are indigenous peoples, who had migrated in waves from East Asia and settled in what is now northeastern India. They have no written history but their legends refer to a beloved homeland that they had to leave, called Sinlung/Chinlung.[11] The various tribes speak languages that are branches of indigenous Tibeto-Burman.

Influence of revivalism

During the first Welsh missionary-led Christian Revivalism movement, which swept through the Mizo hills in 1906, the missionaries prohibited indigenous festivals, feasts, and traditional songs and chants. After missionaries abandoned this policy during the 1919–24 Revival, the Mizo began writing their own hymns, incorporating indigenous elements. They created a unique form of syncretic Christian worship; Christianity has been characterized by its absorption of elements of local cultures wherever it has been introduced.[12]

Dr. Shalva Weil, a senior researcher and noted anthropologist at Hebrew University, wrote in her paper, Dual Conversion Among the Shinlung of North-East (1965):

"Revivalism (among the Mizo) is a recurrent phenomenon distinctive of the Welsh form of Presbyterianism. Certain members of the congregation who easily fall into ecstasy are believed to be visited by the Holy Ghost and the utterings are received as prophecies." (Steven Fuchs 1965: 16).[13]

McCall (1949) had recorded several incidents of revivalism, including the "Kelkang incident," in which three men "spoke in tongues," claiming to be the medium through which God spoke to men. Their following was large and widespread until they clashed with the colonial superintendent. He put down the movement and removed the "sorcery." (1949: 220–223).[14]

In 2004 study Weil says, "although there is no documentary evidence linking the tribal peoples in northeast India with the myth of the lost Israelites, it appears likely that, as with revivalism, the concept was introduced by the missionaries as part of their general millenarian leanings."[15] In the 19th and 20th centuries, Christian missionaries "discovered" lost tribes in far-flung places; their enthusiasm for identifying such peoples as part of the Israelite tribes was related to the desire to speed up the messianic era and bring on the Redemption. Based on his experience in China, for example, Scottish missionary Rev. T.F. Torrance wrote China’s Ancient Israelites (1937), expounding a theory that the Qiang people were Lost Israelites.[16] This theory has not been supported by any more rigorous studies.

Some of the Mizo-Kuki-Chin say they have an oral tradition that the tribe traveled through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China and on to India,[17] where it eventually settled in the northeastern states of Manipur and Mizoram.[18]

According to Tongkhohao Aviel Hangshing, leader of the Bnei Menashe in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, when the Bible was translated into local languages in the 1970s, the people began to study it themselves. Hangshing said, "And we found that the stories, the customs and practices of the Israeli people were very similar to ours. So we thought that we must be one of the lost tribes."[19] After making contact with Israelis, they began to study normative Judaism and established several synagogues. Hundreds of Mizo-Kuki-Chin emigrated to Israel. They were required to formally convert to be accepted as Jews, because their history was not documented. Also, given their long migration and intermarriage, they had lost the maternal ancestry of Jews.

Work of aliyah groups, Amishav and Shavei Israel

In the late 20th century, the Israeli Rabbi aliyah. In 1983 he first learned of the Messianic/Jewish group in northeastern India, after meeting Zaithanchhungi, an insurance saleswoman and former teacher who came from the area.[20] She had traveled to Israel in 1981 to present papers at seminars about her people's connection to Judaism.[21]

During the 1980s, Avichail traveled to northeast India several times to investigate the people's claims. He helped the people do research and collect historic documentation. The people were observed to have some practices similar to Judaism:[22]

  • Three festivals annually similar to those of Jews (Note: but many religions observe such seasonal festivals).
  • Funeral rites, birth and marriage ceremonies have similarities to ancient Judaism (Note: as do other religions).
  • Historical claim of descent from a great ancestor "Manmási", whose descriptions are similar to those of Manasseh, son of Joseph.
  • Local legend <--!where?--> describes the presence of remnants of the lost Jewish tribe of Manasseh (Hebrew: Menashe) more than 1,000 years ago in a cave in southwestern China, whose members migrated across Thailand into northeastern India.

Believing that these people were descendants of Israelites, Avichail named the group Bnei Menashe. He began to teach them normative Orthodox Judaism. He prepared to pay for their aliyah with funds provided by groups such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. This U.S.-Israeli organisation raises funds from evangelical Christians for Jewish causes to support the Second Coming. The Israeli government did not recognize the Messianic groups in India as candidates for aliyah.

Several years later, the rabbi stepped aside as a leader of Amishav in favour of Michael Freund. The younger man was a Jerusalem Post columnist and former deputy director of communications and policy planning in the Prime Minister's office. The two men quarreled.

Freund founded another organization, Shavei Israel, also devoted to supporting aliyah by descendants of lost tribes. Each of the two men have attracted the support of some Bnei Menashe in Israel.[23] "Kuki-Mizo tribal rivalries and clans have also played a role in the split, with some groups supporting one man and some the other."[23] Freund uses some of his private fortune to support Shavei Israel. It has helped provide Jewish education for the Bnei Menashe in Aizawl and Imphal, the capitals of two northeast Indian states.[23]

In mid-2005, with the help of Shavei Israel and the local council of Kiryat Arba, the Bnei Menashe opened its first community centre in Israel. They have built several synagogues in India. In July 2005, they completed a mikveh (ritual bath) in Mizoram under the supervision of Israeli rabbis. This is used in Orthodox Jewish practice and its use is required as part of the formal Orthodox process of conversion of candidates to Judaism.[24] Shortly after, Bnei Menashe built a mikveh in Manipur.

DNA testing results

Observers thought that DNA testing might indicate whether there was Middle Eastern ancestry among the Bnei Menashe. Some resisted such testing, acknowledging that their ancestors had intermarried with other peoples but saying that did not change their sense of identification as Jews.[25] In 2003 author Hillel Halkin helped arrange genetic testing of Mizo-Kuki peoples. He had written about them in his Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel (2002). A total of 350 genetic samples were tested at Haifa's Technion – Israel Institute of Technology under the auspices of Prof. Karl Skorecki. According to the late Isaac Hmar Intoate, a scholar involved with the project, researchers found no genetic evidence of Middle-Eastern ancestry for the Mizo-Chin-Kuki men.[26][27] The study has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In December 2004, Kolkata's Central Forensic Science Laboratory posted a paper at Genome Biology on the Internet. This had not been peer reviewed. They tested a total of 414 people from tribal communities (Hmar, Kuki, Mara, Lai and Lusei) of the state of Mizoram. They found no evidence among the men of Y-DNA haplotypes indicating Middle Eastern origin. Instead, the haplotypes were distinctly East and Southeast Asian in origin.[22] In 2005, additional tests of MtDNA were conducted for 50 women from these communities. The researchers said they found some evidence of Middle Eastern origin, which may have been an indicator of intermarriage during the people's lengthy migration period.[28] While DNA is not used as a determinant of Jewish ancestry, it can be an indicator. It has been found in the Y-DNA among descendants in some other populations distant from the Middle East who claim Jewish descent, some of whose ancestors are believed to have been male Jewish traders.

Israeli Professor Skorecki said of the Kolkata studies that the geneticists "did not do a complete 'genetic sequencing' of all the DNA and therefore it is hard to rely on the conclusions derived from a `partial sequencing, and they themselves admit this."[29] He added

"the absence of a genetic match still does not say that the Kuki do not have origins in the Jewish people, as it is possible that after thousands of years it is difficult to identify the traces of the common genetic origin. However, a positive answer can give a significant indication."[30]

BBC News reported, "[T]he Central Forensic Institute in Calcutta suggests that while the masculine side of the tribes bears no links to Israel, the feminine side suggests a genetic profile with Middle Eastern people that may have arisen through inter-marriage".[31] The social scientist Lev Grinberg commented that "right wing Jewish groups wanted such conversions of distant people to boost the population in areas disputed by the Palestinians."[31]

In November 2006, an Indian historian claimed to have found a genetic link between his Northern Indian Pathan clan and the Lost Tribe of Ephraim. Author Hillel Halkin said, "[T]here's no such thing as Jewish DNA. There is a [genetic] pattern which is very common in the Middle East, 40% of Jews worldwide have it and 60% do not have it. But many non-Jews and people in the Middle East have it also."[32]


In April 2005, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, one of Israel's two Chief Rabbis, formally accepted the Bnei Menashe as descendants of one of the lost tribes after years of review of their claims and other research.[21] His decision allows the Bnei Menashe to immigrate as Jews to Israel under the country's Law of Return. But he requires them to undergo formal conversion to Judaism to be fully accepted as Jews, because of their long interruption from the people.

Most ethnic Mizo-Kuki-Chin have rejected the Bnei Menashe claim of Jewish origin; they believe their peoples are indigenous to Asia, as supported by the Y-DNA test results. Academics in Israel and elsewhere also have serious questions about any Jewish ancestry for this group.

By 2006, some 1,700 Bnei Menashe had moved to Israel, where they were settled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (before disengagement). They were required to undergo Orthodox conversion to Judaism, including study and immersion in a mikveh. The immigrants were put in the settlements as these offered cheaper housing and living expenses than some other areas.[33] The Bnei Menashe composed the largest immigrant population in the Gaza Strip before Israel withdrew its settlers from the area.[34]

Learning Hebrew has been a great challenge, especially for the older generation, for whom the phonology of their native Indic and Sinitic languages makes Hebrew especially challenging. Younger members have had more opportunities to learn Hebrew, as they are more involved in society. Some have gained jobs as soldiers; others as nurses' aides for the elderly and infirm.[34]

Political issues in Israel and India

The mass conversions of Bnei Menashe after their immigration to Israel became controversial. In June 2003, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of Shinui halted Bnei Menashe immigration to Israel. Shinui leaders had expressed concern that "only Third World residents seem interested in converting and immigrating to Israel."[35] In the previous decade, 800 Mizo had immigrated to Israel and converted to Judaism.

A group from Iquitos, Peru had immigrated in the late 20th century; they also had to undergo formal conversion. Some of the Peruvians were descended from male Sephardic Jews from Morocco who had gone to work in the city during its rubber boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They had intermarried with Peruvian women, establishing families that gradually became assimilated as Catholic. In the 1990s, one descendant led an exploration and study of Judaism; eventually a few hundred adopted Jewish practices and converted before making aliyah to Israel.[35] (Another 150 immigrants came to Israel from Iquitos from 2013-2014; they were settled in Ramle as the others had been.)[36]

  • BMC – Bnei Menashe Council
  • Bnei Menashe Website
  • Shavei Israel webpage

External links

  • Quest for the Lost Tribes. (2000) Directed by Simcha Jacobovici.
  • Return of the Lost Tribe. Directed by Phillipe Stroun
  • This Song Is Old [10] (2009), Directed by Bruce Sheridan


  • Hillel Halkin, Beyond the Sabbath River (2002)
  • Zaithanchhungi, Zaii. Israel-Mizo Identity: Mizos (Chhinlung Tribes) Children of Menashe are the Descendants of Israel. Mizoram: L.N. Thuanga "Hope Lodge", 2008.
  • Weil, Shalva. "Ten Lost Tribes", in Raphael Patai and Haya Bar Itzhak (eds.) Jewish Folklore and Traditions: A Multicultural Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2013, (2: 542–543).

Further reading

  1. ^ "Indian converts to Judaism: lost tribes of Israel or economic migrants?", Asia News (IN) .
  2. ^ Itamar Eichner (10 January 2010), "Members of Bnei Menashe to make aliyah", Y Net News .
  3. ^ a b "2000th Bnei Menashe immigrant arrives in Israel", Jerusalem Post (JPost), 14 January 2013, accessed 8 May 2013
  4. ^ Weil, Shalva. "Double Conversion among the 'Children of Menasseh'" in Georg Pfeffer and Deepak K. Behera (eds) Contemporary Society Tribal Studies, New Delhi: Concept, pp. 84–102. 1996 Weil, Shalva. "Lost Israelites from North-East India: Re-Traditionalisation and Conversion among the Shinlung from the Indo-Burmese Borderlands", The Anthropologist, 2004. 6(3): 219–233.
  5. ^ Kommaluri, Vijayanand; Subramanian, R; Sagar K, Anand (2005-07-07). "Issues in Morphological Analysis of North-East Indian Languages". Language in India. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  6. ^ a b Asya Pereltsvaig (Jun 9, 2010), Controversies surrounding Bnei Menashe, Languages of the World 
  7. ^ Dena, Lal (2003-07-26). "Kuki, Chin, Mizo – Hmar's Israelite Origin; Myth or Reality?". Manipur Online. Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The politics of ‘Lost Tribe’". Grassroots Options. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  10. ^ Ling, Salai Za Uk. 1173049576.pdf "The Role of Christianity in Chin Society" (PDF). Chin Human Rights Organization. Retrieved 2007-03-04.  Weil, Shalva. "Dual Conversion Among the Shinlung of North-East India," Studies of Tribes and Tribals 1(1): 43–57 (inaugural volume). 2003.
  11. ^ "Mizoram History". Mizoram State Centre. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  12. ^ Sebastian Chang-Hwan Kim. Showers of Blessing': Revival Movements in the Khassia Hilss and Mukti Mission in Early Twentieth-Century India"'" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  13. ^ [6]
  14. ^ Weil, Shalva. "Dual Conversion Among the Shinlung of North-East India", Studies of Tribes and Tribals, 2003. 1(1): 43–57 (inaugural volume).
  15. ^ Weil, Shalva. "Lost Israelites from North-East India: Re-Traditionalisation and Conversion among the Shinlung from the Indo-Burmese Borderlands." The Anthropologist, 2004, 6(3): 219–233.
  16. ^ Torrance, Rev. TF (1937). China’s Ancient Israelites. 
  17. ^ Weil, Shalva. (1991) Beyond the Sambatyon: the Myth of the Ten Lost Tribes. Tel-Aviv: Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldman Museum of the Jewish Diaspora.
  18. ^ a b "Israel takes in more Bnei Menashe 'lost tribe' members", BBC, 25 December 2012, accessed 8 May 2013
  19. ^ Geeta Pandey, "India's lost Jews' wait in hope", BBC, 18 August 2004, accessed 8 May 2013
  20. ^ Fathers, Michael (1999-09-06). "Lost Tribe of Israel?". Time Asia. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  21. ^ a b "'"Rabbi backs India's 'lost Jews. BBC News. 2005-04-01. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  22. ^ a b Bhaswar Maity, T. Sitalaximi, R. Trivedi, and V. K. Kashyap, "Tracking The Genetic Imprints of Lost Jewish Tribes Among The Gene Pool of Kuki-Chin-Mizo Population of India", December 2004, posted at Genome Biology (not peer-reviewed), accessed 8 May 2013
  23. ^ a b c Linda Chhakchhuak (2006). "Interview with Hillel Halkin". grassrootsoptions. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  24. ^ Peter Foster (2005-09-17). "India's lost tribe recognised as Jews after 2,700 years" (XML). The Telegraph (UK) (London). Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  25. ^ Inigo Gilmore, "Indian 'Jews' Resist DNA Tests to Prove They Are a Lost Tribe", The Telegraph (London), 10 November 2002
  26. ^ Isaac Hmar, "The Jewish Connection: Myth or Reality", E-Pao
  27. ^ "The lost and found Jews in Manipur and Mizoram", E-Pao
  28. ^ Tathagata Bhattacharya (2004-09-12). "DNA tests prove that Mizo people are descendants of a lost Israeli tribe". This Week. Archived from the original on 1 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  29. ^ [7]Yair Sheleg, "In Search of Jewish Chromosomes in India", Haaretz, 1 April 2005
  30. ^ Tudor Parfitt; Yulia Egorova (2006). Genetics, Mass Media And Identity: A Case Study of the Genetic Research on the Lemba And Bene Israel. Taylor & Francis. p. 124.  
  31. ^ a b "Rabbi backs India's 'lost Jews'", BBC News, 1 April 2005.
  32. ^ [8], Jerusalem Post, November 2006
  33. ^ "More than 200 Bnei Menashe arriving in Israel", Israel National News
  34. ^ a b c Harinder Mishra (2006-11-21). "Exodus of Indian Jews from north-east to Israel". rediff news. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  35. ^ a b c Abigail Radoszkowicz, "Bnei Menashe aliya halted by Poraz", The Jerusalem Post, 7 August 2003, hosted at, accessed 8 May 2013
  36. ^ Zohar Blumenkrantz and Judy Maltz, "New Group of 'Amazon Jews' Arrives in Israel", Haaretz, 14 July 2013, accessed 19 August 2015
  37. ^ a b Arutz Sheva
  38. ^ David M. Thangliana (2004-10-26). "New Book X-Rays 'Baseless' Mizo Israel Identity". Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  39. ^ Simon Says (2004-02-15). "Mizoram: A State of Israel in South East Asia". TravelBlog. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  40. ^ Simon Says (2004-12-19). "An emerging Israel in Mizoram". TravelBlog. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  41. ^ [9]
  42. ^ Surya Narain Saxena (2006-01-15). "UPA Government goes out to help conversion". Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  43. ^ Hilary Leila Kreiger (2006-07-02). "Bnei Menashe aliya, conversions halted pending government review". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2007-03-03. 
  44. ^ Mircea Eliade, Image and Symbol
  45. ^ a b Hmar, Isaac L (2005-08-08). "Mizo-Kuki's Claim of Their Jewish Origin: Its impact on Mizo society". E-Pao. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  46. ^ Zoram 
  47. ^ a b "Echoes of Egypt in India", Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2014-12-01.
  48. ^ "Mizoram’s ‘lost Jews’ leave for Israel". Sify. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  49. ^ "Indian Jews immigrate to Israel". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 22 November 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  50. ^ "More Than 260 Bnei Menashe Arriving in Israel". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  51. ^ "Members of Bnei Menashe to make aliyah". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 

References and notes

See also

  • 1894: Christian missionaries began work among the tribal populations in the territories now known as Manipur and Mizoram, India. Most of the population of Mizoram had become practicing Christian by the mid-20th century; the tribal population in Manipur, around 30% of the people, were also Christian.
  • 1951: A tribal leader named Challianthanga had a dream in which his people returned to Israel, and shared it with his community.
  • 1963: A Messianic Jewish movement begins, as the people adopt the Jewish Sabbath and other traditions, vis-a-vis the faith that Y'shua is the promised Messiah.
  • 1972: The first forum, named Manipur Jewish Organization (later United Jews Organization, NEI) was founded by Messianic communities.
  • 1975: Several hundred Messianic Jews adopt practices of Judaism, learning from books.
  • 1980s: Zaithanchhungi tells of her people's claims at meeting in Israel. Israeli rabbi travels to northeast India to investigate group's claims of Jewish connection. First contact with Israel made.
  • 1994–2003: with the help of Jewish organizations, 800 Bnei Menashe make aliyah to Israel; most settle in Jewish settlements in Palestine territories.
  • 2000: Messianic communities were not accepted for aliyah.
  • 2003: Israeli Interior Minister Avraham Poraz freezes immigration of Bnei Menashe to Israel indefinitely.
  • 2003-2004 DNA testing in two studies shows no Middle Eastern ancestry among Bnei Menashe men. The 2004 Indian study suggests some Middle Eastern ancestry among the women, but it may be due to intermarriage during migration. Neither study was peer-reviewed.
  • August 2004: Israeli Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar sends a rabbinical fact-finding committee to investigate Bnei Menashe claims to Jewish ancestry.
  • March 2005: Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar ruled that the Bnei Menashe were part of the lost tribe of Menashe, enabling them to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, but only after formal conversion to Judaism. This was required due to their long separation and centuries of intermarriage with other peoples.
  • August 2005: 146 Bnei Menashe were among settlers forced to evacuate the Gaza Strip as part of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan. [22]
  • September 2005: A beit din formally converts 700 Bnei Menashe to Judaism (219 from Mizoram) [23]. An estimated 9,000 people in northeast states await conversion.
  • November 2005: Israel agrees to halt converting the Bnei Menashe in India after objections from the Indian government. The rabbinical team is pulled out of the country.
  • November 2006: First group of 100 Mizoram’s ‘lost Jews’ leave for Israel[34][48][49]
  • August 2007: More than 260 Bnei Menashe arrive in Israel[50]
  • April 2008: Bnei Menashe Messianic communities from Mizoram, Council of Messianic Yisrael Congregations, Northeast India.
  • January 2006: More than 200 Bnei Menashe make aliyah.
  • 2009: Only Bnei Menashe who convert to Judaism are accepted for aliyah.
  • January 2010: The Israeli government announced that the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe would be accepted for aliyah within a 1–2 year period after they had migrated to Nepal and completed formal conversion. This location was selected for conversions in order to avoid alienating India.[51]
  • 2015: Bnei Menashe Messianic communities are not accepted for aliyah.

Timeline modern

Michael Freund, the director of Shavei Israel, wrote that the Bnei Menashe claim to have a chant they call "Miriam's Prayer." By that time, he had been involved for years in promoting the Bnei Menashe as descended from Jews and working to facilitate their aliyah to Israel.[47] He said that the words of the chant were identical to the ancient Sikpui Song. The Post article is the first known print reference to Miriam's Prayer, aka "Sikpui Hla."[47]

While we are preparing for the Sikpui Feast,
The big red sea becomes divided;
As we march along fighting our foes,
We are being led by pillar of cloud by day,
And pillar of fire by night.
Our enemies, O ye folks, are thick with fury,
Come out with your shields and arrows.
Fighting our enemies all day long,
We march forward as cloud-fire goes before us.
The enemies we fought all day long,
The big sea swallowed them like wild beast.
Collect the quails,
And draw the water that springs out of the rock.

Translation of the lyrics:[46]

The Bnei Menashe have come to believe that the traditional Hmar harvest festival(Sikpuiroui) song, "Sikpui Hla (Sikpui Song)," which refers to events and images similar to some in the Book of Exodus, is evidence of their Israelite ancestry. Studies of comparative religion, however, have demonstrated recurring motifs and symbols in unrelated religions and peoples in many regions.[44] In addition, other Mizo-Kuki-Hmar people say that this song is an ancient one of their culture. The song includes references to enemies chasing the people over a red-coloured sea,[45] quails, and a pillar of cloud.[45] Such images and symbols are not exclusive to Judaism.


In 2012, after a change in government, the Israel legislature passed a resolution to resume allowing immigration of Bnei Menashe. Fifty-four entered the country in January 2013, making a total of 200 immigrants, according to Shavei Israel.[3][18]

In October 2007, the Israeli government said that approval of travelers' entry into Israel for the purpose of mass conversion and citizenship would have to be decided by the full Cabinet, rather than by the Interior Minister alone. This decision was expected to be a major obstacle in Shavei Israel's endeavours to bring all Bnei Menashe to Israel. The government suspended issuing visas to the Bnei Menashe.

In July 2006, Israeli Immigration Absorption Minister Zeev Boim said that the 218 Bnei Menashe who had completed their conversions would be allowed to enter the country, but "first the government must decide what its policy will be towards those who have yet to (formally) convert."[43] A few months later, in November 2006, the 218 Bnei Menashe arrived in Israel and were settled in Upper Nazareth and Karmiel. The government has encouraged more people to settle in the Galilee and the Negev. The next year, 230 Bnei Menashe arrived in Israel in September 2007, having completed the formal conversion process in India.

Some Bnei Menashe supporters said that Israeli officials failed to explain to the Indian government that the rabbis were formalizing the conversions of Bnei Menashe who had already accepted Judaism, rather than trying to recruit new members. Some Hindu groups criticised the Indian government, saying that it took Christian complaints about Jewish proselytizing more seriously than theirs. They have complained for years about Christian missionaries recruiting Hindus without receiving any governmental response.[42]

After Rabbi Amar's ruled in 2005 that the Bnei Menashe would be accepted as a lost tribe and Jews after completing conversion, the plan was for Bnei Menashe to undergo conversion while living in India, at which time they would be qualified for aliyah. In September 2005, a task force from the Chief Rabbinate's Beit Din (rabbinic court) traveled to India to complete the conversion of a group of 218 Bnei Menashe. India expressed strong concern to Israel about the mass conversions, saying its laws prohibit such interference by members of another nation. It wants to avoid proselytizing by outside groups and religious conflicts in its diverse society. In November 2005, the Israeli government withdrew the rabbinic court team from India because of the strained relations.

The region has had numerous separatist movements and India has struggled to maintain peace there. [41] declare the areas inhabited by Mizo tribes to be an independent nation for Mizo Israelites.United Nations Sailo said that CIPC's goal was not emigration to Israel, but to have the [40][39] In March 2004, Dr Biaksiama appeared on television, discussing the issues with

He wrote the book, Mizo Nge Israel? (Mizo or Israeli?) (2004), exploring this issue.[38] He does not think the people have a legitimate claim to Jewish descent. Leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Mizoram, the largest denomination, have objected to the Israelis' activity there.

"[T]he mass conversion by foreign priests will pose a threat not only to social stability in the region, but also to national security. A large number of people will forsake loyalty to the Union of India, as they all will become eligible for a foreign citizenship."

The rapid rise in conversions also provoked political controversy in Mizoram, India. The Indian government believed that the conversions encouraged identification with another country, in an area already characterized by separatist unrest. Dr Biaksiama of the Aizawl Christian Research Centre said,


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