Ministry of Immigration Served Notice That Shavei Ties Must Be Cut
Updated: Jul 4
(July 4) The Tel Aviv law firm of Dror, Menchel & Weinstein has served legal notice on the country’s Minister of Aliyah and Integration, Pnina Tamano-Shata, that her ministry will be taken to the High Court of Justice unless it cuts its ties with Shavei Israel.
Written by the firm’s managing partner Ron Dror, the notice to the minister begins, in English translation:
“On behalf of my clients, fourteen members of the B’nei Menashe community in Israel, and of Degel Menashe, I am addressing the demand to you that the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration terminate the role of Shavei Israel in the B’nei Menashe’s immigration to Israel and its absorption here.
“My clients declare, firstly, that Shavei Israel is a morally and financially corrupt organization that has over the years abused its near-total power over B’nei Menashe Aliyah from India to Israel; and, secondly, that despite all the flaws and injustices that this has led to, which are well-known to the Ministry, its granting Shavei Israel this power has been, and continues to be, its deliberate policy.”
The five-page notice, dated July 3, proceeds to enumerate the ways in which Shavei Israel’s “corruption” has manifested itself, starting with blatant discrimination in India against B’nei Menashe who refuse to accept Shavei’s dictates, and ending with this year’s April 15 ruling of Tel Aviv district court judge Naftali Shilo that the organization and its chairman, Michael Freund, are guilty of criminal forgery and fraud. The notice also documents how the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration has condoned such acts while refusing to reply to, or even acknowledge, the countless complaints made regarding them.
The notice concludes: “Judging from all that has been said above, it is clear that the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration is determined to continue its policy of full collaboration with Shavei Israel and to ignore the weighty reasons presented to it for withdrawing the powers it has granted this organization and transferring them to other bodies. I therefore have no alternative but to inform you in the name of my clients that, unless I receive from you a speedy answer listing the steps that you intend to take in order to rectify the situation, and unless there are signs that such steps are being implemented, we will be forced to resort to legal measures that will require your ministry to cut its ties with Shavei Israel.”
Dror, Menchel & Weinstein is a prominent Israeli law firm specializing in commercial and public litigation. Its third partner, Yehuda Weinstein, who acts in an advisory capacity, is a former Attorney-General of Israel. The firm, which has agreed to take on the case pro bono in recognition of its public importance, was retained jointly by Degel Menashe and 14 senior members of the B’nei Menashe community in Israel. “We have been considering such a step for a long time,” our Newsletter was told by Hillel Halkin, Degel Menashe’s chairman of the board. “We put it off until now in the hope that it could be avoided. That hope has been dashed. The Ministry of Aliyah has given us no other choice.”
Asked why legal notice to cut ties with Shavei Israel wasn’t also served on The Jewish Agency, which signed an agreement of collaboration with Shavei in May, 2021, Halkin said: “The Jewish Agency is a different matter. Its role in the B’nei Menashe’s Aliyah has until now been a small one, limited to a measure of financial support for Shavei. It’s precisely that which we wish to change: we want the Agency to take full responsibility for this Aliyah, so that Shavei has no more to do with it. The Agency now has a new, highly regarded chairman, Doron Almog, whom we hope will adopt such a policy. He can’t do so, however, without the Ministry of Aliyah’s backing, and so it’s against the Ministry that we need to act.”
Degel Menashe’s 14 fellow litigants were enthusiastic about participating in the case. “Shavei’s demise is long overdue,” our Newsletter was told by one of them, Natan Mangsat Kipgen of Kiryat Arba, who has not seen his family in Manipur for 20 years after it was black-listed for Aliyah by Shavei Israel. “Shavei has treated our community very badly, and misused and abused the authority given it, “ Kipgen said.
Another signatory to the legal notice, Eliora Mate of Bet She’an, calls Shavei Israel “a bad seed that was planted long ago in our community. Families have been separated by it, favors have been dispensed by it at whim, power has been abused by it. It has created a general atmosphere of fear in our community. The bad seed has grown fully now. The only solution is to root it out completely.”
Demsat Yosef Haokip, a recent immigrant to Israel and now a resident of Nof Hagalil who also put his name to the legal notice, adds: “Our community is afflicted with a sickness. This sickness has been brought upon us by Shavei Israel. The only remedy is to get rid of it. Shavei may have done some good work, but the evil it has done outweighs the good by far. If peace is to come to our community, Shavei must go. The courts need to address this problem.”
Rivka Lunkhel of Kiryat Arba would like to appear in court herself. “I would tell the judges everything I know about Shavei,” she told us. “Since its establishment, it has promoted nothing but division. There are people whom I never wronged who don’t talk to me, even hate me, because I don’t support Shavei. But why should I when I see all the horrible things that it’s done? Why is all this necessary?”
Unfortunately, that’s what it seems to be.