160 B’nei Menashe Immigrants Reach Israel, Covid19 Strands, Separates, 115 in New Delhi
Updated: May 31
(May 31) As 160 B’nei Menashe from the state of Manipur landed at Ben-Gurion Airport today, another 115 found themselves initially confined to their rooms in a New Delhi hotel after they or their family members had tested positive for Covid19. Then, on Thursday afternoon, after spending a day, as one of them told our Newsletter, “staring at the walls” of their hotel rooms, all of the positives were removed by the Delhi police to a Covid isolation center. Since few of them speak Hindi or English, they can be expected to have difficulty communicating with the center’s personnel. It is not clear how many if any of them have developed Covid symptoms, and at the time of this article’s posting, a pall of uncertainty hung over them all.
Under the auspices of the Jerusalem-based organization Shavei Israel, which has been entrusted with the B’nei Menashe’s Aliyah, the entire group of 275 flew last week in three contingents from Manipur to New Delhi, where it was put up at the Hotel Good Times in the city’s center, near the Karol Bagh market. While there it was sent, as per Israeli government regulations for all travelers to Israel, for Covid19 tests.
Allegedly, the 275 had been proven Covid-free before leaving Manipur, where Shavei Israel required each family to test negative before boarding the flight from Imphal to New Delhi. Yet on May 30, several days after the last of the three contingents reached Delhi, Shavei’s Information Secretary Eliezer Baite announced that 115 of the group “have been afflicted with an illness that is common these days” and will be kept in isolation for two weeks in India. “This,” declared Baite, “is God’s will.”
Baite’s announcement was inaccurate. Not all 115 had tested positive, nor, at this moment, is the exact number of those who did known. Many who did not apparently stayed behind to remain with infected family members.
How a supposedly zero rate of Covid19 in the group turned into a high incidence within a few days is unclear. One rumor making the rounds is that a large B ‘nei Menashe family already carrying the illness boarded the Imphal -New Delhi flight with erroneous or counterfeit test results and quickly passed it on to others. So far, however, there has been no corroboration of this.
The immigrants remaining in the Hotel Good Times, our Newsletter has learned, are being looked after by Shavei Israel’s travel agent in India, Malka Moses. As far as is known, no Shavei officials have visited them or come to their aid, nor has Shavei issued any clarification regarding them. Neither has any been provided by Israel’s Ministry of Immigration. A senior ministry official told our Newsletter that the ministry would act vis-à-vis the detained group in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines and that he could release no further information.
Meanwhile, the 160 olim who arrived in Israel Thursday afternoon were bused directly from the airport to the Jerusalem Gate Hotel at the western entrance to nation’s capital. There they will spend two weeks in quarantine before beginning the course that will lead to their rabbinical conversion to Judaism. All were reported to be in good health.