With tears in their eyes, 550 immigrants from the Bnei Menashe community who recently immigrated to Israel and now live in the Galilee, came to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount for the first time in their lives together with the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau. The immigrants lifted up prayers for the speedy immigration to the Land of the 5,000 members of the community still remaining in northeastern India.
Shmuel Manlon, 40, one of the immigrants who arrived at the Western Wall, said: “It was like a dream come true for me, and I could not stop the tears. It feels like we are part of the fulfillment of redemption.”
The festive event was organized for them by the Shavei Israel organization, which has been working for years to bring the Bnei Menashe to Israel. Among the participants were Michael Freund, chairman of the Shavei Israel organization, Sarshalom Jerby – Director of the Education Division In the JNF, and Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan – Head of the Religious Council in Jerusalem.
“The encounter and contact with the Western Wall stones was unusually exciting for the Bnei Menashe. For them, it was not only a symbolic and historical event of a people returning to their country, but also a powerful spiritual event, one that they have not experienced in their lives to this day,” said Freund.
According to the tradition passed down through the generations, members of the Bnei Menashe community in India consider themselves descendants of the Tribe of Manasseh – one of the ten tribes exiled from Israel at the end of the First Temple period, more than 2,700 years ago by the king of Assyria. Their number is currently estimated at about 10,500 people. To date, about 5,200 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel thanks to the Shavei Israel organization, and about 5,000 are still waiting in India for the opportunity.
“I am very excited to be here with you today, because you are a success story and we are very happy to have you as part of the people of Israel,” said the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau. “The Chief Rabbinate is happy and proud to assist you in the very successful process of your halachic conversion. This is exactly how we want to see the process with everyone who wants to convert and become part of the Jewish people.”