Skip to comments.India's 'lost Jews' wait in hope
Posted on 08/19/2004 7:11:00 PM PDT by missyme
A team of senior Israeli rabbis is due to rule soon on whether thousands of Indians who say they are members of one of the lost tribes of Israel can settle there.
Only 5,000 of the Benei Menashes have converted to Judaism Shlomo Amar recently led a delegation of rabbis to the north-eastern Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram where members of the Benei Menashe tribe live and practise Judaism.
At the Beith-el Synagogue in the Manipur capital, Imphal, nine men wearing knitted skull caps read silently from the Old Testament.
Four others stand on a wooden platform in the centre of the room as a young man reads from the holy book under the supervision of an elderly priest.
These people claim to be one of the lost tribes of Israel.
Tongkhohao Aviel Hangshing is the leader of the Benei Menashes in Imphal.
We found that the stories, the customs and practices of the Israeli people were very similar to ours
Tongkhohao Aviel Hangshing "We are Benei Menashe, because we belong to the Menashe tribe," he says.
"Menashe is the son of Joseph, who was one of the 12 sons of Jacob. So we are the lost tribe of Israel."
Mr Hangshing says for thousands of years they did not know they were lost.
"We found out only 27 years ago," he says.
"When the Bible was translated into our language, in 1970s, we studied it.
"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."
Saturdays are observed by Jews the world over as the Sabbath, the day of rest, and the members of the Benei Menashe community meet for morning prayers at the synagogue in Imphal.
A lamb-skin scroll of the Torah, is unrolled and then rolled up again as each reader finishes his part.
There are more than 300,000 Benei Menashes in Manipur but most of them follow Christianity.
Only about 5,000 have converted to Judaism, most of them during the 1970s.
Mr Hangshing says although India has treated them quite well, they do not consider it their home.
Lucy Vaiphei (right) is hoping to join her family in Israel The recent visit by a delegation of rabbis from Israel has given new hope to the members of this community.
Caleb, a 24-year-old college student, wants to go to Israel because he says it is the land of his forefathers.
Amram is studying to be a lawyer. He says Israel is the promised land, for him and the others too.
"In Israel it will be easier for us to practise our religion."
In a chamber partitioned from the main prayer hall, about a dozen women join in the Sabbath prayers.
Lucy Vaiphei is the caretaker of the synagogue.
Her parents and six siblings have emigrated to Israel in the last few years and she is now looking forward to making the move herself.
Michael Freund, director of Amishav - an organisation that helps Jews move to Israel - says he firmly believes that Menashe is one of the lost tribes of Israel.
"We have brought over 800 of them to Israel," he says, "and the remaining people also want to emigrate".
Mr Freund says that last year the new Israeli interior minister, Avraham Poraz, suddenly declared his opposition to bringing the Benei Menashes into Israel.
"But I'm confident that if the chief rabbi issues a ruling saying that the Benei Menashes are indeed descendents of the Jewish people and should be allowed back home, then he will have no choice but to let them in."
So while the rabbis in Israel take a decision on whether or not to grant the right to emigrate to Israel to the Benei Menashes, this community here is waiting with bated breath - and praying.
Could DNA prove this?
I am not sure what race the 12 lost tribes of Israel are? proably semetic...Can white people or Indian people be semetic?
DNA can. There have been extensive DNA studies done on Jews from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
This was done because of claims made by Arabs that the Jews returning from Europe to Israel were not descendants of ancient Israel.
The DNA study showed that there are definitely links between European Jews and the Middle East, even after so many centuries of Diaspora.
I am sorry but I think that's bunk...With so much mixed marrying through out time there is no way to trace Jews to Ancient Israel the only time I have heard of it maybe happening is with the tribe of Levi...
There is no way to tell, That is like people saying they can claim blood relation to Jesus Christ by DNA...
No prob. I lurked on a pro-palestinian anti-semitic blog for a month.
I was trying to provide a moderate voice to help some of them change their minds.
It was pointless... So many Arabs are raised with a hatred for Jews.
I figure only the United States and Europe invading the Middle East and placing them under martial law for two or three generations would work. During that time period we could force civil interactions between the Arabs and Jews, and wait for their kids to form the necessary bonds to trounce the hatred their parents would try to instill.
Knocking them back to the stone age might also help.
And I'm only half-joking.
Semitic people are white. This is news to you?
There not white...White people are not semetic
He told me that the Bnei Menahse story is bunk. He thinks they are a native tribe that once had some connection to Islam (which most of "Jewish" rituals come from) and was converted to Christianity this century. According to him, the Missionaries told them wild stories about them being a lost tribe as part of a tactic to deceive them into Christinaity (i.e. you are a Jewish tribe, Jesus was a Jew -- one of you -- and is your messiah, etc.).
That being said, these are people who fervently believe in Judaism now. I have no problem having them convert and move to Israel.
We vary in skin tone -- some are quite light, others dark (like Italians or Greeks), others much darker -- like Arabs. But all would be classified as "Caucasion" or "white."
You are wrong. There was very little mixed marrying INTO Judaism. People who married out left Judaism, and their descendants ceased to be Jews.
Genetic testing has shown that ALL Jews (not just Levis) are very closely related to one another, and form one population group -- regardless of whether or not our ancestors lived in Yemen or Poland 100 years ago.
Good to hear from you...
SO do you believe that there are people through-out the world that can claim they are part of one of the 12 lost tribes of Israel?
Judy Siegel. "Genetic evidence links Jews to their ancient tribe." Jerusalem Post (November 20, 2001). Excerpts:
"Despite being separated for over 1,000 years, Sephardi Jews of North African origin are genetically indistinguishable from their brethren from Iraq, according to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. They also proved that Sephardi Jews are very close genetically to the Jews of Kurdistan, and only slight differences exist between these two groups and Ashkenazi Jews from Europe. These conclusions are reached in an article published recently in the American Journal of Human Genetics and written by Prof. Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University (HU) and Hadassah-University Hospital in Ein Kerem. Others involved are German doctoral student Almut Nebel, Dr. Marina Faerman of HU, Dr. Dvora Filon of Hadassah-University Hospital, and other colleagues from Germany and India. The researchers conducted blood tests of Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Kurdish Jews and examined their Y chromosomes, which are carried only by males. They then compared them with those of various Arab groups - Palestinians, Beduins, Jordanians, Syrians and Lebanese - as well as to non-Arab populations from Transcaucasia - Turks, Armenians and Moslem Kurds. The study is based on 526 Y chromosomes typed by the Israeli team and additional data on 1,321 individuals from 12 populations... Surprisingly, the study shows a closer genetic affinity by Jews to the non-Jewish, non-Arab populations in the northern part of the Middle East than to Arabs."
The studies are extensive and exhaustive, and the percentage of links vary from barely statistically significant, to a strong correlation. Of course, these are studies done by Jews... Arabs probably have their own studies showing the opposite.
Well if that's the case if All the Apostles and believers in Jesus Christ were Jews and had Jewish wives and Jewish children and down the line than there DNA would be of Jewish blood if I am hearing you correctly, if you give up your religion does that change your DNA (Jewish by blood) to be part of the 12 tribles of Israel?
than their DNA
The sad part is spellcheck won't help you.
Over 2000 years ago there were Jews and Gentiles, right..
When the Jews brought Jesus Christ A Jew to the Gentile World, did that cancel them out to be part of one of the tribes of Israel?
Gentiles cannot claim DNA to Jesus Christ only Jews can...
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