250 B'NEI MENASHE ARRIVE IN ISRAEL

(October 14) A group of 250 B'nei Menashe olim from Manipur landed Wednesday at Ben Gurion Airport. Traveling on a flight arranged by Shavei Israel, the private Jerusalem-based organization tasked with bringing them, the group comprised the last of 722 B'nei Menashe whose Aliyah, though approved in 2015, was delayed for years by Israeli government procrastination.


The immigrants were welcomed at the airport by the Minister of Aliyah and Absorption, Pnina Tamano-Shata. After a brief ceremony, they were taken to an absorption center at an undisclosed site, where they will spend the next three months studying Hebrew and preparing for their rabbinical conversion to Judaism. Subsequently, they will be given housing in the northern city of Nof ha-Galil (formerly Upper Nazareth), as were the two groups that preceded them.


The immigrants flew to Israel from Manipur's capital of Imphal via New Delhi, where mishaps betook several of them. In one case, a small child was diagnosed with Covid-19 and she and her family were unable to continue on their way. In other instances, persons were discovered not to have Israeli visas. How they could have boarded the Imphal-New Delhi flight without them is unclear.


But the most curious case was that of 35-year-old Nachshon Haokip, who was traveling with his wife and two small children. Nachshon had angered Shavei Israel by participating in the Degel Menashe food relief campaign in the summer of 2020 that Shavei opposed and by refusing to sign the oath of allegiance to it that it had demanded from all the immigrants. In addition, his brother, Hillel Haokip, is a known anti-Shavei activist in Israel.


Although nevertheless included in the group, Nachshom was informed upon reaching New Delhi that he could not proceed further because details on his Israeli visa did not match those on his Indian passport: whereas the passport bore his Kuki first name of Henjangam, his visa had his Hebrew name of Nachshon, and while the passport correctly gave his year of birth as 1986, the visa stated it as 1982. The devastated Nachshon, forced to part from his wife and children who continued to Israel, received a telephone call from Shavei Israel's chairman Michael Freund telling him to return to Manipur and expressing the hope that he would eventually be able to rejoin his family.


Could it be a coincidence that the one person in the group of 250 whose passport and visa did not tally was someone who had been on Shavei Israel’s blacklist? The details in Nachshon's passport were, like those of all the immigrants, forwarded by Shavei Israel to the Ministry of Interior in Jerusalem, which then issued the visa. No one in Jerusalem could have known Nachshon's Hebrew name. Only Shavei’s office could have substituted it for his Kuki one.


This and the incorrect date of birth inevitably lead one to wonder whether Shavei, unable to punish Nachshon by removing him from the government-authorized 2015 list, deliberately falsified details of his passport in order to render his visa invalid. His being ordered back to Manipur only strengthens the suspicion. Would not another telephone call, a simple clarification from Michael Freund to the Ministry of Interior, affirming that Nachshon was the victim of a clerical mistake on Shavei’s part, have sufficed to allow him to fly with his family to Israel?