The nine couples were among 162 new immigrants who arrived in Israel last month thanks to the Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel, which has made the dream of aliyah possible for over 3,000 Bnei Menashe over the last 15 years and plans to bring more members of the community to Israel.
They all hail from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, on the border with Burma, and which is home to the largest concentration of Bnei Menashe in India. The new immigrants all plan to settle in Tiberias, Israel, after they leave Kfar Hasidim.
"After realizing their dream of making Aliyah and returning to the Jewish people, these nine Bnei Menashe couples now have an additional reason to celebrate," said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. "They have now been remarried in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony which symbolizes the new lives they are building here in the Jewish state. We wish them a hearty Mazel Tov and much joy, health and success here in Israel."
The Bnei Menashe (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 border with Burma and Bangladesh.
Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing Shabbat, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. And they continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Currently there are 7,000 Bnei Menashe awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.
The new Bnei Menashe immigrants are required, as part of the formal conversion process, to marry according the laws of Moses in Israel. Although the couples were already married in India, and some even have children, this is their first Jewish wedding.
"We are so excited and happy to be getting married in the Promised Land after waiting for more than 25 years to make it here with the eight other couples," said Pedatzur Touthang, 42, who, together with his wife Yehudit, was among the couples that were remarried.
"HaShem is great to bring us back home—after so many centuries in exile—to get married in the land of our ancestors. We are so lucky and thrilled to be a part of building the Jewish nation," said Yoel Khongsai, who remarried his wife Sara.
The brides had their hair and makeup done and wore traditional white wedding gowns, and some of the grooms wore traditional suits with Bnei Menashe tribal designs.
Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.
The organization reaches out to and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. It works with various groups around the world, such as the Bnei Menashe, the Bnei Anousim (“Marranos”) of Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, and the "Hidden Jews" of Poland from the time of the Holocaust. The organization also engages in the absorption of new olim in Israel, including providing assistance with housing, employment, and professional training.