B’nei Menashe (Immigrants from India), Carmiel, Israel, 2007
B’nei Menashe (Immigrants from India), Carmiel, Israel, 2007Click to Enlarge
This photograph was taken at an absorption center for new immigrants in Israel. The subjects of the photo are members of the B’nei Menashe (Children of Menashe), a small group of people from northeast India whose traditions bear similarities to Jewish practice and who believe they are descended from the ancient Israelite tribe of Menashe. They trace their history to the exile of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE, across Asia to China, and finally to India. In recent years, small groups of B’nei Menashe have immigrated to Israel, officially converted to Judaism, and begun to learn about traditional Jewish practice.
הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל-רָע, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-הַנְּעָרִים, וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי, וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק; וְיִדְגּוּ לָרֹב, בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ.
The Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—
Bless these boys.
In them may my name be recalled,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac,
And may they become numerous throughout the earth.
– From Jacob’s blessing over his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe, Genesis (Bereshit) 48:16
כָּל עוֹד בַּלֵבָב פְּנִימָה
נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָה,
וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח קָדִימָה
עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָה
עוֹד לא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,
הַתִּקְוָה בָּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם,
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם
As long as deep in the heart
The soul of a Jew yearns
And towards the East
An eye looks to Zion
Our hope is not yet lost
The hope of two thousand years
To be a free people in our land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
– Naphtali Hertz Imber