In the northeastern Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram, a community of approximately 5,000 people, including individuals like Khiangte and Haokip, identify themselves as descendants of the Manasseh, one of the biblical lost tribes of Israel. Known as the Bnei Menashe, meaning the children of Manasseh, these individuals believe their lineage traces back to the exiled Manasseh tribe, sent into exile by Assyrian conquerors in 722 BC.
Led by Thansima Thawmte, the chairman of the Bnei Menashe Council (BMC) in Mizoram, the community fervently awaits what they call “aliyah,” the return to their ancestral homeland in Israel. Thawmte expressed the collective sentiment of his community, stating, “We are desperately waiting to reunite with the land of our ancestors. It all depends on Israel, when they allow us to enter their land, and we can only pray that it happens soon.”
For the Bnei Menashe, the yearning to return to Israel is rooted deeply in their cultural and historical identity. They consider themselves direct descendants of Manasseh, the eldest son of Joseph, a significant figure in Jewish history and tradition. Over centuries, the Bnei Menashe have preserved their customs, practices, and beliefs, maintaining a distinct sense of identity despite geographical and historical displacements.
The journey of the Bnei Menashe is one marked by resilience, faith, and a longing for home. Their narrative resonates with the broader theme of diaspora communities seeking to reconnect with their roots and reclaim their heritage. The quest for aliyah represents not just a physical relocation but a spiritual and emotional pilgrimage, driven by a profound sense of belonging and longing for ancestral land.
However, the path to aliyah is fraught with complexities and challenges. The Bnei Menashe’s aspirations hinge on the policies and decisions of the Israeli government regarding immigration and citizenship. While some members of the community have successfully made the journey to Israel and been granted citizenship, many others await their turn, navigating bureaucratic hurdles and diplomatic processes.