B’nei Menashe Celebrate Independence Day In and Not Yet In Israel
(April 28) As a badly divided and conflicted Israel marked its 75th Independence Day in a mood of anxiety and apprehension, only the B’nei Menashe seemed confident of its future. Here are a few samples of the many responses received by our Newsletter from members of the community, both in Israel and in India, who were asked for their thoughts about the day.
“I have lived in Israel for close to thirty years and am grateful to God for this blessing and to the pioneers who have done so much to turn our beautiful country into what it is today.”
Yehoshua Lunkhel, Kiryat Arba, Israel
“Israel, our eternal home, is a land of truth and prosperity. From the small state of Mizoram in India, I convey my love, wishes, and the best of everything to my longed-for country.”
Leah Renthlei, Aizawl, Mizoram
“It is an enormous privilege to be able to witness Israel’s 75th Independence Day. I came here in 2021, which makes me very new. Yet I myself am old and my only regret is that I could not have come when I was younger and contributed something of my own.”
Elkhanan Vaiphei, Nof Hagalil, Israel
“The 75th jubilee of the establishment of our beloved Israel after two thousand years is a momentous occasion. We stand with our only home in this world and we express our pride and happiness in it. It is my fervent wish to celebrate the 76th anniversary in Israel.”
Ngamsei Eliezer Haokip, Imphal, Manipur
“The years of Israel’s independence are a source of great pride for me, as is the fact that my parents came here because they were Zionists. In 75 years, our little country has become a powerhouse against all the odds. What progress it has made in that time!”
Bracha Haokip, Kiryat Arba, Israel
When it comes to Israel, do the B’nei Menashe, then, have no complaints at all?
Yes, they do , one. Here is Amos Sektak of Kiryat Arba:
“As with all B’nei Menashe, the 75th anniversary of Israel is a moment of happiness for me. But it would have been even more joyous if all of our family were here in Israel to celebrate with us. We are seven brothers and sisters. I came to Israel in 2000, and my parents and others followed in 2003. We have all made Aliyah except for our oldest brother and his family who was left behind and is still waiting. The current system has denied them Aliyah to this day. We have no hope to see them here unless things change.”
Amos Sektak’s brother’s family are among the roughly 4,500 B’nei Menashe still in India who have been waiting five, ten, or twenty years to make Aliyah because Israel’s governments have allotted the community Aliyah permits with miserly stinginess. Could there be a greater absurdity? In all of Israel, there is not another group that is happier to be here. In all the lands of the Diaspora, there is not another group that more longs to be here. Yet Israel continues to treat this group as though it were doing it a special favor by letting it come in dribs and drabs, a few hundred at a time every two or three years, while its families remain separated and parents, children, brothers, and sisters are kept from being together. Israeli Aliyah emissaries scour the world for Jews wishing to immigrate in Israel. Disgruntled Israelis talk more and more about leaving Israel. And yet for the B’nei Menashe, the one community in the world every member of which practices Judaism, and every member of which wants to live in Israel, the gates have kept opening a crack and closing, opening again and closing, for the past thirty years.
The reasons for this situation are complex and Israeli governments do not bear all the blame for it. Others are guilty, too. But it’s time to put an end to it.
There is only one way to do so. All the B’nei Menashe remaining in India, without exception, should be allowed to come to Israel now. Immediately! All the excuses for not letting them do so – “the government does not have enough money for it,” or “so many B’nei Menashe cannot be absorbed that quickly,” or “the Rabbinate will not agree to it,” or whatever – are just that: excuses. There is not one of these problems that cannot be solved, and solved fairly easily at that, if there is a will to solve it. The B’nei Menashe want to be here, all of them. Let’s not continue to make them the only Prisoners of Zion imprisoned by the Jewish state itself. Let’s see to it that not only Ngamsei Eliezer Haokip, but every last B’nei Menashe, can celebrate Israel’s 76th Independence Day in Israel – and if not the 76th (this truly may not be practical), than the 77th or 78th. It can be done. Let’s do it!