Jerusalem: Some 160 Jews from the Northeastern Indian community of Bnei Menashe reached Israel on Monday but 115 others were left behind in India after 38 of them tested positive for COVID-19, according to authorities here.
A total of 275 Jews from India were scheduled to travel to Israel on Monday.
Shavei Israel, a non-profit organisation, has been spearheading the movement to bring back Jews from the lost tribe looking to immigrate to Israel and have coordinated the aliyah (immigration) of most of the Bnei Menashe community members living in Israel.
The flight landed at Ben-Gurion airport on Monday.
“Family members accompanying the 38 people who were tested positive also stayed behind and will come once they all recover and complete the quarantine period,” a member of the Bnei Menashe community, hailing from the north-eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram, told PTI.
“The new batch of immigrants will be kept at an absorption centre initially where they will go through the formal absorption process, including learning Hebrew, and then will be settled in the northern part of Israel, he said.
Ha’aretz Online reported earlier that the Ministry of Health was considering barring the entry of the entire group after the high rate of positive tests for COVID-19, but allowed those who tested negative to board the flight under pressure from the Immigration and Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency.
With the latest batch of immigrants from the community, their numbers would swell to more than 2,500 as per the ministry of Immigration and Absorption.
There have been intense debates around the Jewishness of Bnei Menashe in the past, but in 2005 the then Chief Rabbi of the Sephardi community, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, recognised them as descendants of
Israel, paving the way for their immigration to Israel. The community claims that it belongs to the Menashe tribe, one of the ten tribes pushed into exile by the Assyrians some 2,700 years ago.