In the beginning of the XIX Century, British missioners encountered a group of tribes living at the border between India and Burma. To their great surprise, the missioners realized that those tribes who had a collective name of Bnei Menashe, sons of Manasseh, claimed their descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. They told the British that their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh. Even though they were exiled from biblical Israel, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals, and following the laws of family purity – all with the dream of eventually returning home to the land of Israel. Astounded, the missioners did their best to persuade the Bnei Menashe, that they had been Christians who, in a strange way, had Judaized themselves.
As this persuasion was accompanied with the substantial amount of money and lots of political pressure, a vast majority of Bnei Menashe turned Christians. And only a tiny and the most stubborn minority, about 7,000 as of today, have continued to keep their Judaism.
Year after year, in small groups, they manage to immigrate to Israel, in spite of plentiful obstacles created by the Indian Government, which does not like the idea. This year, in 2021, a new group of some 250 people has made its way to Israel, amid the Corona Pandemics.
And I had a privilege, with few tour guides from the Jewish national Fund, JNF, to lead this new immigrants group to the Golan Heights, which was their homeplace 2,700 years ago. It was their first trip outside of their Immigration Center in Galilee, and the excitement was tremendous.
Picking the cherries
North of the Golan heights, at the Syrian Border