Indigenous Indians Cleared to Immigrate to Israel, Convert to Judaism

Arrival of Bnei Menashe group in Jan. 2014 ('Israel Returns' website)

A former Netanyahu aide is the key figure behind an unprecedented government decision to allow an indigenous people from north-eastern India to immigrate to Israel and convert upon arrival.

According to an investigation by Haaretz, nearly 1,000 members of the ‘Bnei Menashe’ community have arrived in Israel over the past two years. “Though little, if any, proof exists of their Jewish lineage”, the paper writes, “the Israeli government voted in October 2012 to allow “a large group” to move to Israel, and, a year later, “voted to bring in an even larger group.”

Such a move required “special government permission” since the Bnei Menashe “don’t qualify as Jews under the Law of Return and are, therefore, not eligible for automatic citizenship.” The new arrivals joined another 1,500 already in Israel, “who had arrived in trickles over the years.” Many of the longer-standing immigrants live in West Bank settlements.

According to Haaretz, “this is likely the first and only time the government has allowed and even provided finance for the mass immigration of a large community whose members do not qualify as Jews under the Law of Return, nor do they have proven Jewish ancestry according to the broader definition of ‘seed of Israel.'”

– Read more: Former Netanyahu aide behind ‘lost tribes’ moving to Israel from India – Middle East Monitor

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