Thousands of years ago, the Bible spoke of the “ingathering of the exiles,” a time in the future when the Jews exiled from the ancient land of Israel would return to their native homeland. Roughly 2,700 years ago, after the Biblical land of Israel, which was comprised of 12 tribes, had become two kingdoms, Israel with 10 tribes in the north and Judah with two in the south, the Assyrian Empire exiled the ten tribes of the nation of Israel, known thereafter as the Ten Lost Tribes.
Now, the Israeli government is helping a group of hundreds of more people from Northern India who describe themselves as “Bnei Menashe,” meaning sons of Menashe (the tribe of Menashe was one of the ten lost tribes), to return to Israel.
“Israel’s Minister of Aliyah and Absorption Knesset member Penina Tamanu-Shata announced this month that in cooperation with the Interior Ministry, she is moving ahead with plans for the aliyah of 722 members of the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India. The first group is anticipated to arrive in Israel after the Jewish High Holidays, which end in mid-October,” the Jewish News Syndicate reported.
The group Shavei Israel and their founder Michael Freund have already moved over 4,000 members of Bnei Menashe to Israel. Freund said there were another 6,500 Bnei Menashe Jews in India waiting to come to Israel, adding, “with G-d’s help in the coming years, we will bring all those who wish to come back home to Zion.” Freund said of the group:
For centuries, they practiced a Biblical form of Judaism, observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals, and following the laws of family purity. They were still performing the sacrificial rites too when they were discovered by the British over a century ago. Interestingly, they were not aware of either Purim or Chanukah, both of which commemorate events that took place centuries after their ancestors were exiled.
JNS writes of Bnei Menashe, “Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh.”
As the Woodside Park Synagogue in London, England, has noted, in Deuteronomy it is written:
And it will be, when all these things come upon you the blessing and the curse which I have set before you that you will consider in your heart, among all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you will return to the Lord, your God, then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you, even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you will take possession of it.
The prophet Isaiah stated, “And He shall raise a banner to the nations, and He shall gather the lost of Israel, and the scattered ones of Judah He shall gather from the four corners of the earth.” He was echoed by the prophet Jeremiah, who asserted, “And I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will return your captivity and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will return you to the place whence I exiled you.” The prophet Ezekiel added, “With a pleasing savor I shall accept you when I take you out of the nations, and I shall gather you from the lands in which you were scattered, and I shall be hallowed through you before the eyes of the nations.”