Shavei Invaders, Avichail School Students, Brawl at Beit Shalom
(April 7) A pitched battle broke out on Sunday, April 3 at Churachandpur’s Beit Shalom synagogue. The brawl, which resulted in injuries on both sides, took place when a group of Shavei Israel supporters, led by Shavei militant Ronel Letkholien Haokip, broke into a classroom of the Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail Memorial School and put an end to the lesson.
The school, an initiative of Manipur’s B’nei Menashe Council, has held regular Hebrew and Bible classes for the past several months. The classes, attended by youths and adults, have been conducted on the premises of Beit Shalom, the oldest and largest B’nei Menashe synagogue in Northeast India, with the permission of the synagogue’s officials. Yet Shavei Israel, the Jerusalem-based organization whose control of B’nei Menashe Aliyah to Israel for the past two decades has enabled it to dominate the community, considers the independent school an unacceptable challenge to its authority and has campaigned against it.
The April 3 incident was the second of its kind in two weeks. On March 24, Shavei intruders also barged into an Avichail School class and sought to disperse it, and the ensuing shouting match ended only when the police were called in. (See our March 24 Website article, “Shavei Hooligans Storm Churachandpur Classroom.”)
The Sunday, April 3 incident started similarly. It quickly turned violent, however, when a Shavei supporter, Moshe Mangoulien Haokip, attacked one of the students, David Lhouvum. Several of Lhouvum’s classmates came to his aid, and the classroom soon became an arena of blows, punches, clubbings, and karate kicks. This time, too, the police were forced to intervene.
Emboldened by the lack of opposition to Shavei Israel’s holding of an illegal by-election for Beit Shalom’s chairmanship in which Shavei supporter Seithang Haokip was chosen for the post by a 99-to-0 vote (see our March 31 article, “Shavei Strong Arm Tactics Continue With Synagogue Putsch”), the invaders were clearly surprised by the resistance they met. At a meeting between them and a B’nei Menashe Council official convened after the brawl, they reportedly offered to agree to the Avichail School’s continuing at Beit Shalom in return for the BMC’s recognition the validity of the March 24 vote.. This report could not be confirmed by our Newsletter.
News of the Beit Shalom brawl traveled quickly beyond the Beit Shalom community and was widely talked about. Interviewed on the Manipur TV station TCN, Shlomo Sehjalal Kipgen Shave Israel’s Manipur Administrator, denied that Shavei had anything to do with the affair and said that it was an internal Beit Shalom matter. Yet writing on a Shavei WhatsApp site, Ronel Letkholien Haokip referred to Tsvi Khaute, Shavei Israel’s International Co-ordinator and second-in-command, as “our Master.” Ronell called the BMC and its followers “idol worshipers” and told them to “build yourselves a new synagogue.”