26 Dec 2012

Lost tribe descendants arrive in Israel from India

11:28 am on 26 December 2012

Fifty members of a tribe in India said to be descended from one of the biblical tribes of ancient Israel, have emigrated after a visa ban was lifted by the Israel government.

Israel is permitting about 7000 of the Bnei Menashe community to emigrate from India.

Some 1700 Bnei Menashe arrived nearly a decade ago after the community was recognised in 2005 by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar after an investigation lasting several years.

Israel stopped issuing visas to the group two years later, but recently reversed the policy. The community numbers about 7200.

Around 50 people arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday. The BBC reports there were emotional scenes at Ben Gurion airport as the newcomers were greeted by relatives who moved to Israel during the first wave of immigration.

Ten tribes were exiled when Assyrians invaded the kingdom of Israel in the 8th Century BC.

According to its oral tradition, the tribe travelled through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China and on to India, where it eventually settled in the north-eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram, near the border with Myanmar.

Critics accuse the Bnei Menashe of using their status to escape poverty in India.