Shavei Hooligans Storm Churachandpur Classroom
(March 24) Seven Shavei Israel activists broke into a class of the Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail Memorial School in Churachandpur on March 22, shouting obscenities and threatening to use violence to shut the school down. They were ejected only when the police were called.
The school has been anathema to Shavei Israel since it was started over a year ago. (Shut down soon after its founding by a prolonged Covid lockdown, it opened its doors again for the current school year.) A project of Manipur’s B’nei Menashe Council named for the Jerusalem rabbi who taught the B’nei Menashe traditional Judaism and initiated their Aliyah to Israel, the school has been bitterly opposed by Shavei Israel for supposedly infringing on its territory – and this despite the fact that Shavei has, in recent years, run no significant educational programs of its own in Manipur or Mizoram.
The Shavei operatives arrived at the school, which uses the premises of Churachandpur’s Beit Shalom synagogue, Manipur’s largest, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday evening while a Torah class was being held. The class, which was studying the book of Sh’mot or Exodus, was viewing a film about Moses and the Israelites in Egypt when the intruders barged in. Led by Shavei Israel’s Manipur coordinator Benjamin Nehkhomang Haokip and Shavei supporter Ronel Letkholen Haokip, they cursed, shouted, spat on the students, and warned them not to continue their studies at the school. “Some of them appeared to be drunk,” our Newsletter was told by Avichayil Mate, the B’nei Menashe Council’s Information Secretary who was present at the incident. “Ronel Haokip was the loudest of them. He openly threatened to ‘kick and kill’ anyone attending the school’s classes in the future.”
Ronel was asked to show restraint by Beit Shalom general secretary Avichayil Manchong, who sought to reason with him and pleaded with him to engage in peaceful dialogue. While Benjamin Haokip sought to shout him down, and Ronel looked menacingly on, Manchong appealed to the disrupted class not to respond with counter-violence of its own.
When a physical brawl seemed imminent, Mate related, the police were asked to intervene. Although there were no arrests, the invaders were made to leave the premises. “Without the police, it would have ended badly,” said B”nei Menashe Council general secretary Ohaliav Haokip, who was alerted and arrived on the scene. “I myself was told by the Shavei goons that they would kill me and throw my corpse in a dump heap.”
By chance, the incident took place just 48 hours after the same class had celebrated its completion of studying the weekly Torah portions in the book of B’reshit or Genesis with a prize-giving ceremony for the winners of a quiz contest regarding what had been learned. Eight of the class’s 40 students were singled out for honors by their teacher, Shimon Thomsong . Although it was a happy milestone in the Rabbi Eliyahu Avichayil Memorial School’s brief history, the celebratory mood did not last long.