Mizos in Israel learning Hebrew, local customs

By Sangzuala Hmar, IANS

Aizawl : The last batch of immigrants to Israel from the Bnei Menashe tribe in Mizoram, who claim to be descendants of one of the lost tribes of Israel, is now learning the Hebrew language and local customs.

Support TwoCircles

The Mizo immigrants from India are staying in the Upper Nazareth and Karmiel areas of Israel.

"The settlement is only a temporary camp where they are learning Hebrew and Israeli customs," said Laltlanliana, administrator of the Shavei Hebrew Centre in the Mizo capital of Aizawl, an organisation working for the community here.

"They are being taught the basic concepts of life in Israel and are developing their talents and working skills through job placements," he said.

Bnei Menashe are a group of more than 8,000 people from the northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur who claim to be descendants of one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Four batches of these immigrants have settled in Israel since 1994.

According to an official at Aizawl's Amishav Hebrew Centre, there are now more than 1,200 Bnei Menashe living in Israel.

"The Israeli government is encouraging more people to settle in the Galilee and Negev areas after the training. I think they'll be moving further north for their permanent settlement; it is meaningful that the Bnei Menashe will help to strengthen and revitalise this part of Israel," he said.

The ultimate objective of the Israel government is to see the Bnei Menashe fully integrated into Israeli society.

The living standards of the community in Israel are much higher than it was in Mizoram, Laltlanliana claimed, adding: "They are so content that they have already forgotten Mizoram."

Sangtea, a cyber café owner here who is in contact with the Bnei Menashes via the internet, told IANS, "Their living standard and earnings are way beyond ours."

Laltlanliana, who has just left for Tel Aviv to attend a religious leadership training course, plans to meet the new Jewish settlers.

"I will be visiting the temporary settlement the Israel government has given to the last batch if 215, who landed in November last year," he said before leaving for Tel Aviv.

In July 2005, the Bnei Menashes of Mizoram completed building a 'mikvah', or a Jewish ritual bath, under the supervision of Israeli rabbis in order to begin the process of conversion to Judaism. The same year 218 Mizo Christians were converted to Judaism.

"There's a high chance of another batch of conversion to Judaism or 'mikvah'. The decision will be made by our Rabbis," Laltlanliana said.