Hanna and Dina Singson Reunite in Israel
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
(September 1) Two weeks ago, our Newsletter posted a story about 74-year-old Hanna Singson and her daughter Dina. Hanna had been hospitalized in Israel for a blood disease after months of neglect by Shavei Israel staff in the Galilee city of Nof Ha-Galil to which she immigrated from Manipur last October, while Dina was still in India, separated from her mother by Shavei’s cruelly discriminatory and punitive Aliyah policies. Now, the two women are together again. Arriving on a flight from New Delhi on Thursday evening, Dina was met at the airport by Degel Menashe managing director Yitzhak Thangjom and his wife Jessica and taken directly to
the Sderot home of Rivka and Zvulun Guite, the B’nei Menashe couple with whom Hanna has been staying since fleeing Nof Ha-Galil and to whose care she returned when released from the hospital.
Dina traveled to Israel with a special entry permit issued by the Ministry of the Interior and arranged for by Milka Zeiler, an Israeli businesswoman and long-time friend of the B’nei Menashe who intervened on her behalf after reading and her mother’s story. Within a matter of days, a ticket was booked and paid for by Degel Menashe, which saw to it that Dina was escorted to Imphal and New Delhi airports. Everything went smoothly, she told our Newsletter, until she landed in Israel, where border control officials were bewildered by the unfamiliar document she handed them
“When my turn in line came,” Dina related, “I presented my passport with the permit. The woman at the booth looked at it and said, ‘This isn’t a visa.’ I said, “Read what’s written there.’ She did and said she’d never seen anything like it, and she passed me on to the next booth. The woman there told me to wait while she made some phone calls. She must have made about four of them, which took some twenty minutes, after which she asked me a few questions and stamped my passport. I can’t say I wasn’t anxious, but it wasn’t really a bad experience.”
On the hour-long drive to Sderot with the Thangjoms, Dina says, she was flooded with phone calls from well-wishers who had already heard of her arrival through the social media. “I can’t tell you how wonderful I felt,” she went on. “When we got there, my mother was waiting. For a moment, we just stood there looking at each other. It was all so unbelievable. But then we gave each other a big hug and I knew it was real. We chatted and then sat down to dinner with the Guites and the Thangjoms. We were all hungry and the food was delicious, but my mother didn’t eat a thing. She was too happy and excited to have an appetite.”
Dina’s last evening in Churachandpur on Monday, August 30 was marred by by an unpleasant incident with Shavei’s Manipur Administrator Sehjalal Shlomo Kipgen.
As she tells it, "My family, friends and some friend of the Menashe Council, of which I’m a staunch supporter, had gathered at my home in the community of Buoljol, the area of Churichandpur in which I live, for a farewell party.. There were about forty of us, and each of the guests said a few words to wish me well. When that ended about 8:30, we lit a bonfire and grilled some chicken over it for those who wanted to remain.
At about 9:30 or 10, Dina says, Sehjalal, Shavei Administrator, who is also Buolojol’s recognized chief or administrative authority, appeared on the scene. “He was reeking of alcohol,” Dina relates, “and obviously drunk. He started shouting and demanding to know how we could have a get-together in his community without his permission. Although we tried calming him down, he grew more and more agitated and went from ranting to weeping and back again. Then he started to threaten Ohaliav Haokip, the BMC’s general secretary, who was recording him on his cell phone, and when he saw that no one was taking his side, he went off to bring reinforcements.”
Sehjalal: Ohaliav what are you doing in my community? Ohaliav: Brother, have a seat. Sehjalal: This is my community. I should punch you in the nose. What could you do to me if I slapped you around a little? Ohaliav: Have a seat, have a seat.. Sehjalal: Or maybe I should smash your cell phone. Are you recording me? Ohaliav: What are you so angry about? Sehjalal: Where is Samson? [Samson Singson, a relative of Dina’s who was present.] Samson, come over here. You dumb yokel, you! What are you doing? Why didn't you invite me if you were having a party? To hell with you and all your kin! What do you say to that, eh? [To everyone] No one leave, everyone stay where you are! Where are my men”?
Taped conversation between Sehjalal and Ohaliav at Boljol.
At that point, Dina says, Ohaliav and the other BMC members left and went to the home of Menashe Kipgen, who lives in the nearby community of Petach Tikva, where Sehjalal has no jurisdiction. After a while, she relates “Sehjalal came back with a few of his henchmen and resumed his drunken ranting.. He shouted at me that he had authority over all the B’nei Menashe and could have my visa cancelled if he wanted to, and he had one of his people pour water on the fire and put it out. He was clearly not in his right mind. At that point, I decided to leave and go to Menashe’s home, too. I spent the night there with the others, because I was afraid my home might be attacked by Sehjalal if I stayed in it. Even then I was afraid he might ambush me on my way to the airport in the morning, but fortunately, he was still sleeping off all that liquor.
“When I landed in New Delhi on Tuesday, I was picked up at the airport by Tongkhohao Khongsai and his wife Hoinu [B’nei Menashe who live in Delhi], who welcomed me warmly to their home.
I was supposed to fly to Israel on Thursday, but that evening I received a phone call from Yitzhak Thangjom, who told me that my reservation had been changed to Wednesday afternoon. I was glad of that because it meant I would be seeing my mother a day earlier.”
And what did Dina have to say the morning after, her first morning of waking in Israel? “Honestly,” she responded to our question, “I never thought I’d get a visa to Israel. I thought only Shavei had the power to grant one. Now I see that’s not so and that the decisions are God’s. I’m grateful to all those who did His work, especially to Milka Zeiler and the Thangjoms.”
And Hanna? “I always knew Dina would come one day,” she says. “Now that she’s here, I feel much better and more alive. I won’t have to feel lonely anymore.”