It is the largest number of Bnei Menashe couples ever to get married at one time!
Ness Ziona, Israel (August 5, 2021) – Seventeen Bnei Menashe couples, all of whom recently immigrated to Israel from northeastern India, were remarried yesterday in a festive and emotional group ceremony at Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Ayanot youth village in central Israel, located near the city of Ness Ziona, after completing their formal conversion to Judaism by the Chief Rabbinate. It is the largest number of Bnei Menashe couples ever to get married at one time. The youngest in the group was a 20-year-old and the oldest was a 79-year-old, both were grooms.
Among the couples who participated are parents and their son, who got remarried on the same day. Betzalel Haokip (43) and Bat Sheva (41) were lucky enough to make Aliyah together and get married with Betzalel’s parents at today’s ceremony. Betzalel’s parents Simeon (73) and Rachel (64) Haokip waited for over 20 years to make Aliyah to Israel. They both wanted to fulfill their parents’ wishes and bring up their children in the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Another couple in yesterday’s group was Iyov and Sara Tungnung who got married in 1963, almost 60 years ago. They made Aliyah along with their son, a widower, and their four grandchildren. Upon arrival in Israel, the Tungnungs were reunited with their son Daniel Tungnung and grandchildren who made Aliyah six years ago and now live in Safed.
The 17 couples made Aliya along with other Bnei Menashe thanks to the Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel and the Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano Shata. The 17 couples hail from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur and plan to settle in the city of Nof HaGalil, formerly known as Upper Nazareth, in the north of Israel.
“We wish the couples a hearty Mazel Tov and much joy, health and success here in their new home,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “After realizing their dream of making Aliyah and returning to the Jewish people, these 17 Bnei Menashe couples now have an additional reason to celebrate. Despite the pandemic, they have now been remarried in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony which symbolizes the new lives they are building here in the Jewish state.”
For the weddings the brides had their hair and makeup done and wore traditional white wedding gowns while some of the grooms wore traditional suits with Bnei Menashe tribal designs. In light of the Coronavirus situation, the ceremonies were conducted in accordance with Health Ministry regulations.
“We were excited to be able to get married according to the laws of Moses and Israel,” said Samuel (38) and Ruth (36) Singson, one of the couples who got remarried today. “There are no words that could describe how happy we are right now.”
“I congratulate the young couples who got married today and rejoice in their happiness,” said the Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano Shata. “I am proud that as Minister I was able to make possible the Aliya of hundreds of the Bnei Menashe tribe, who waited fo so many years to come to Israel. This is a special community with a love of Israel in every sense, a community that has kept the Jewish tradition for many years in faraway India and longs for the day when it will return to Zion,” she noted, adding: “For generations, Israeli governments have pledged to encourage and absorb immigration from all over the world, and I have raised the banner to help as many immigrants as possible who’re facing problems in the process of immigrating to Israel.”
The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh. Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Thus far, Shavei Israel has made the dream of Aliyah, immigration to Israel, possible for over 4,500 Bnei Menashe and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently, there are 6,000 Bnei Menashe awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.