215 members of Bnei Menashe among IDF soldiers fighting Hamas, Hezbollah

“Since the war broke out, Shavei Israel has received hundreds of requests from young community members in northeastern India asking to make aliyah immediately,” said founder and chairman Michael Freund.

Staff Sgt. Gershon Menashe. Credit: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.
Staff Sgt. Gershon Menashe. Credit: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.

Approximately 215 Bnei Menashe Jews who made aliyah from northeastern India in recent years are currently serving as soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces fighting against Hamas and Hezbollah in “Operation Swords of Iron.” Some 75 are on active duty, most in combat units, and 140 were called up for reserve duty.

The announcement was made by Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit organization lobbying for 20-plus years for the immigration to Israel of the Bnei Menashe, who descend from a “lost tribe” of Israel.

Of Bnei Menashe immigrants of military age, nearly all men (99%) and 10% of women join the IDF, with 90% of females performing sherut leumi, national service due to religious reasons, the organization said.

“The Bnei Menashe are dedicated Zionists and passionate about the State of Israel, its people and their security. It is no coincidence that so many of them serve in combat units in the IDF, and we are proud of their willingness to risk their lives alongside other Israeli soldiers to defend the Land and people of Israel,” said Shavei Israel’s founder and chairman, Michael Freund.

One soldier from Bnei Menashe, Natanel Touthang, 26, was recently injured by shrapnel from an exploding shell that Hezbollah fired from Lebanon into northern Israel. He sustained injuries to his eyes and hand, and has since undergone three surgeries. Touthang, who made aliyah in 2018, serves in the Golani Brigade.

Staff Sgt. Harel Paltuel. Credit: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.

Five Bnei Menashe members who are fighting have allowed the organization to publicize their names and photographs to inform the public about the community’s dedication to Israel’s defense.

Two are active-duty soldiers: Staff Sgt. Ariel, 19, was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces 10 months ago and serves in the Sayeret Nachal special forces; and Sgt. Azaria, 21, serves in the paratroopers brigade.

Three are reservists: Staff Sgt. Harel Paltuel, 29, serves in the Nachal Brigade; Staff Sgt. Gershon Menashe, 23, serves as a combat driver; and Staff Sgt. Hei Khizkia, 23, serves in the paratroopers brigade. They all made aliyah to Israel in 2014.

“Since the war broke out, Shavei Israel has received hundreds of requests from young community members in northeastern India asking to make aliyah immediately,” said Freund. “Not only that—they are asking to join the IDF immediately to fight shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters.”

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Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and descendants of Jews around the world. The organization is currently active in more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to a variety of communities, such as the Bnei Menashe of India; the Bnei Anousim (referred to by the derogatory term “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal and South America; the Subbotnik Jews of Russia; and the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland. For more information, see: www.shavei.org.
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