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India’s Bnei Menashe members seek ‘aliyah’ and to join IDF

“They are dedicated Zionists and passionate about Israel, its people and their security,” said Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund.

Hundreds of Bnei Menashe stand with the State of Israel during a solidarity march in Aizawl, in the Indian state of Mizoram, on Jan. 15, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.
Hundreds of Bnei Menashe stand with the State of Israel during a solidarity march in Aizawl, in the Indian state of Mizoram, on Jan. 15, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.

Hundreds of members of the Bnei Menashe community in northeastern India who descend from a “lost tribe” of Israel, gathered on Jan. 15 in Aizawl, in the Indian state of Mizoram, to show their support and solidarity with the State of Israel as it marks 100 days since the war in Gaza began.

During the gathering, they marched in the streets of the city, waved Israeli flags and called on the government of Israel to allow them to make aliyah immediately so they could join the Israel Defense Forces.

According to Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit organization lobbying for 20-plus years for the immigration to Israel of the Bnei Menashe, 75 members of the Bnei Menashe who made aliyah from northeastern India in recent years are on active duty and currently serve in the IDF, fighting against Hamas and Hezbollah. An additional 140 members were called up for reserve duty.

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,” said Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s founder and chairman. “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.”

He said that since the war broke out on Oct. 7, “Shavei Israel has received hundreds of requests from young community members in northeastern India asking to make aliyah immediately. Not only that—they are asking to join the IDF immediately to fight shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters.”

They have also advocated for the release of the 136 remaining hostages being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Bnei Menashe Call for Return of Hostages From Israel
Bnei Menashe members call for the return of Israeli hostages being held captive in the Gaza Strip during a march in Aizawl, in the Indian state of Mizoram, on Jan. 15, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.
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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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