No One Comes or Goes in Nordiya

Updated: Jan 16

(January 14) A month after their arrival in Israel on December 17, the 252 B’nei Menashe immigrants in the Nordiya absorption center near Netanya have seen no more of the country than they did from the windows of the El Al plane that brought them. Nor, for that matter, has the country, or even their close relatives, seen anything of them.


In part, this can be put down to circumstance. Subjected to a two-week Covid-19 quarantine upon reaching the center, the immigrants were barely done with it when a national lockdown was imposed. Yet this does not explain the security guards at the center’s gates who have instructions to let no one but Shavei Israel personnel enter or exit, or the strict orders that the immigrants have been given to talk to no one but their immediate families on their cell phones. There have been reports of relatives coming to visit and being turned away or of shouted conversations being held with them through the gate. Finding out what is happening at the Center, our Newsletter has discovered, is only slightly easier than investigating conditions in North Korea.


What we have been able to learn is this:

B'nei Menashe immigrants room at Nordiya

Most of the immigrants are housed six to a room, in three pairs of bunk beds. Their day begins with breakfast, which is served in two messes, one for the olim from Manipur and the other for those from Mizoram. (All meals are prepared by a catering service and served by volunteers from the group.) Afterwards, at 8a.m., come morning prayers, followed by lessons in Judaism until lunchtime, with intermittent breaks. After lunch are more lessons until it is time for evening prayers and dinner. After dinner and before bedtime, the immigrants are sometimes given a talk on Israeli life or other subjects by Shavei International Coordinator Tsvi Khaute. There are no organized recreational activities and nowhere to buy drinks or snacks.


The teachers at Nordiya are all Shavei staff. None are known to be deeply versed in Jewish history, law, or tradition. Although the B’nei Menashe community in Israel numbers several rabbis, as well as a number of teachers authorized by the Rabbinate to instruct their communities, none is employed at the absorption center.


Twice a week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the immigrants attend giyyur or conversion classes to prepare them for the rabbinical court they will have to face. Several conversions, announced by Shavei on a Facebook page, have already taken place. Yet the converts, it is said, will have to remain for two more months at Nordiya like everyone else. Hopefully, by then they will have gotten a first glimpse of Israel, and we, a first glimpse of them.

B'nei Menashe at Nordiya before rabbinical conversion court

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Isaac Thangjom, Project Director

degelmenashe@gmail.com

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