When the human civilization was comparatively young nearly 2722 years ago with political turbulence sweeping Levant which then formed the Eastern Mediterranean of Western Asia, the mighty Assyrian Empire exiled the 10 Jewish tribes of Israel.
One among them was Bnei Menashe, one of the 10 tribes!
We get glimpses of this expulsion in the Hebrew Bible and other historical references including that of Flavius Josephus, the 1st century Jewish scholar who fought against the Roman Empire but ultimately took shelter in Rome to compile the history of Israelites.
They accessed to the then inaccessible Manipur and Mizoram braving heat, stand storms, cold, mountains, jungles, rivers and seas risking their very lives, Bnei Mesashe people settled down there.
But then who could harm the “Children of Menaseh” or the Chosen People of God, the Yahweh?
Why they chose Manipur or Mizoram still is a mystery. How they came to the Northeast India also is a mystery, at the same time. In fact, the exodus of the 11 Israeli tribes from the Assyrian Empire still is a matter of academic and archaeological research.
While the details and present location of most of the 10 tribes are yet to be ascertained, those of the “Children of Menaseh” living for centuries together in Manipur and Mizoram is chronicled, more or less.
The legend says, the God also had promised them that they would be resettled at the Chosen Land: Israel. And the Yahweh fulfilled his promise after 27 long centuries that witnessed the Diaspora of thousands of Jews across the world on being exiled by different powers that rose and fell in the Levant.
The Levant is a loosely-knit area dotting the vast Eastern Mediterranean comprising today’s Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordon, some parts of Mesopotamia or Iraq and Turkey.
On December 15, 2020, the arrival of 250 members of Bnei Menashe Jewish community from Manipur and Mizoram to Israel became very big news. The news was splashed in all media organizations in Israel besides other parts of the world.
Saga of the Lost Tribes………
The 10 lost tribes of Jews are: Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasse (Menaseh) and Ephraim. The “Children of Menaseh” or Bnei Menashe who came to Manipur and Mizoram are one of them.
The 250 of them going to Israel are direct descendants of that particular "lost tribe". They were received with massive enthusiasm in the land of their origin. But that is justified as it is really very thrilling that they reached there after 27 long centuries making Manipur and Mizoram their homes.
Currently, 6,000 more Bnei Menashe community members are waiting to fly to Israel. Altogether, 4,000 of them have already flown to Israel in batches over the last few years. Interestingly, about 4,500 Bnei Menashe are already living in Israel with some of them born there.
Among the “Lost Tribes” of Jews, Menashe forms the largest group who wandered through the Central Asia and the Far East for centuries during their period of the Diaspora which was predicted in the Hebrew Bible.
It really is surprising they found their ways risking lives centuries ago to different villages of Manipur and Mizoram lying along the borders of Myanmar and Bangladesh. Several of such villages were strongholds of separatist terrorists of the Northeast India.
The Diaspora Initiatives to Resettle in Israel
The Bnei Menashe community had been trying to get back to Israel at least for the last 50 years beginning their efforts towards this direction way back in 1970. They wrote letters to different Prime Ministers of Israel highlighting their original Jewish status and also of being one of the 10 “Lost Tribes”.
But Israel, then, was passing through difficult times facing constant attacks from enemies and suffering from severe economic problems. Israel then was not what it is today. Israel was fully aware of the existence of this “Lost Tribe” but had no option to bring them back to the land of their origin.
Subsequently, an NGO by the name Shavei Israel was born in Israel. It decided to create a live data of Bnei Menashe living in Manipur and Mizoram. The data was created over the years and the process of their repatriation to Israel also gained momentum.
The Shavei Israel Hebrew Centre was set up in 2004 at Churachandpur district. With this, the migration process took momentum. In 2005, the Rabbinic Court of Jerusalem officially declared the Bnei Menashe community as one of the 10 “Lost Tribes”.
But the members of Bnei Menashe still had to wait for few more time to finally fly to Israel in small batches. It was in 2006 that 213 members of the “Lost Tribe” migrated to Israel from Mizoram followed by 233 more from Manipur in 2007.
The Bnei Menashe community is known as CHIKIM tribes comprising Chin-Kuki-Mizos. In Manipur, they mainly live in Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal, Imphal, Moreh and Tupul (Noney).
According to the Churachandpur-based Beit Shalom Synagogue, the whole of CHIKIM has been officially recognized by the Israel as the “Lost Tribe” expelled by the Assyrian Kingdom 2,700 years ago. There are about 10,000 members of Bnei Menashe community currently living in the Northeast India.
A New Initiative…..
Amlan Home Chowdhury
To read the further articles please get your copy of Eastern Panorama February issue @http://www.magzter.com/IN/Hill-Publications/Eastern-Panorama/News/ or mail to contact @easternpanorama.in