Bnei Menashe in Burma- a Christian Pentecostal Myth (1 January, 2013, Tevet 19, 5773)
1. Belief and a Rise in Living Standards.
2. Extracts from Wilipedia Article on the Bnei Manashe.
3. Impressions of the Bnei Manashe from a Neighbor.
Every now and again we receive question concerning the so-called Bnei Manashe meaning a group of Burmese tribesmen who claim to be Israelites. Here are few remarks of ours on the subject followed by extracts from a Wikiepedia article.
1. Belief and a Rise in Living Standards.
The Bnei Manashe are probably non-Israelites of East Asian origin. They now live in the border regions straddling India and Burma. After conversion to Christianity one of them had a vision saying they were descended from Israelites. Over the years new proofs for this have been found but these are of questionable validity. Most of them DO NOT believe they descend from Israel. Some do. Some of those who claim to descend from Israel in effect want to come to live in Israel. Belief in Israelite descent IS AN EXCUSE! Israel is a western country and living standards are high in comparison to those of India and Burma. What is more the region of Burma in which they live is in the midst of a civil war and of uncertain future. In Israel, if they are accepted, they receive help in accommodation and finding work or in reasonable subsistence if work is not found, or in occupational training if they so desire.
The Bnei Manashe have been encouraged by the organization Amishav (Hebrew for "My People Return"), founded by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail and more recently by
Michael Freund, founder of Shavei Israel (Hebrew for "Israel Returns"). Both groups received large amounts of money from Jewish and Christian bodies. Both Avichail and Freund are strongly prejudiced against the idea that descendants of Israelites may be found amongst Western Peoples.
About 1,700 of the Bnei Manashe have so far (2012) been accepted into Israel. They have come over in groups. The first few groups consisted of young unmarried carefully chosen individuals with professions of their own. Later more varied ensembles were accepted.
Some of the girls married American or Israeli Jewish boys and the marriages appear to have been successful.
They go through a shortened conversion process. Most appear to genuinely accept Judaism at first. This was the reason for the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar (in 2005) to come out in support of them. Some of the boys learn in Yeshivot and the girls in Ulpanot (Jewish Religious Colleges).
Nevertheless problems do exist. Religious observance reflects that of the general population amongst whom they dwell. Some have acclimatization and social difficulties. Cases of alcoholism are know.
If a group of Gentiles from the USA would take the same approach as the Bnei Menashe does they would get the same, or possible (after a while) a much better, deal.
Hebrew Nations/Brit-Am is not involved in such approaches.
We emphasize spreading the message of Israelite Ancestry, Mutual Heritage, and increasing Biblical Consciousness.
This, of course, could in the future lead to settlement in Israel for some but it is not a concern of ours at present.
In the past, Israel Feld expressed the opinion that the beni Manashe were in effect preparing the way for the REAL descendants of the Ten Tribes to be accepted.
3. Israel Feld: Mystical-Psychological Explanation of "Burma and Brit-Am"
The present Wikipedia article on the subject appears to give a thorough and reliable condensation of the situation concerning the Bnei Manashe.
Below are some extracts:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The breakaway Judaic group was named Bnei Menashe by Eliyahu Avichail because they believe that the legendary Kuki-Mizo ancestor Manmasi was Menasseh, son of Joseph.
The Bnei Menashe (Hebrew: , "Children of Menasseh") are a group of more than 9,000 people from India's North-Eastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram who claim descent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The claim appeared after a Pentecostalist dreamt in 1951 that his people's pre-Christian religion was Judaism and that their original homeland was Israel. Linguistically, Bnei Menashe are Tibeto-Burmans and belong to the Mizo, Kuki and Chin peoples. They are called Chin in Burma. Prior to their conversion to Christianity in the 19th Century, the Chin, Kuki, and Mizo were headhunters and animists.
Prior to their conversion to Christianity in the 19th Century, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo were headhunters and animists who migrated in waves from East Asia until they settled in northeastern India. They have no written history but their legends refer to a beloved homeland that they were driven away from called Sinlung/Chhinlung. Anthropologists and historians believe that it was located in China's Yunnan province...
The Bnei Menashe believe that the traditional Mizo-Kuki-Hmar harvest festival song in the Hmar language, "Sikpui Hla (Sikpui Song)" which features events paralleled in the Book of Exodus, such as enemies chasing them over a red-coloured sea, quails, and a pillar of cloud is clear evidence of their Israelite ancestry.
Dr. Shalva Weil , a senior researcher and noted anthropologist at Hebrew University, quotes Steven Fuchs in her paper Dual Conversion Among the Shinlung of North-East: "Revivalism (among the Mizo) is a recurrent phenomenon distinctive of the Welsh form of Presbyterianism. Certain members of the congregation who easily fall into ecstasy are believed to be visited by the Holy Ghost and the utterings are received as prophecies" (1965: 16). McCall (1949) records several incidents of revivalism including the "Kelkang incident" in which three men "spoke in tongues" claiming to be the medium through which God spoke to men. Their following was large and widespread until they clashed with the colonial Superintendent who put down the movement and removed the "sorcery" (1949: 220-223)".
According to the Bnei Menashe, in 1951, a Pentecostalist called Chalianthanga or Mela Chala (the name varies) from Buallawn village dreamt that God instructed him to direct his people to return to their pre-Christian religion, which he determined to be Judaism, and to return to their original homeland, Israel.
...their claims gained wider credence in the 1980s when a self-taught researcher, Zaithanchhungi, purported to have discovered similarities between their ancient animist rituals and those of Biblical Judaism, such as sacrifices.
Shalva Weil writes that "although there is no documentary evidence linking the tribal peoples in North-East India with the myth of the Lost Israelites, it appears likely that, as with revivalism, the concept was introduced by the missionaries as part of their general millenarian leanings. This was certainly the case in other countries, where Christian missionaries "discovered" Lost Tribes in far-flung places, in order to speed up the messianic era and bring on the Redemption. In China, for example, the Scottish missionary Rev. TF Torrance entitled his 1937 book "China's Ancient Israelites" expounding the theory that the Qiang people are really Lost Israelites".
1979: Amishav (Hebrew for "My People Return"), an Israeli organisation founded by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail and dedicated to locating the lost tribes of Israel, heard about a group in India claiming descent from Israelites. The Rabbi traveled to India several times during the 1980s to investigate the claims. Convinced that the Bnei Menashe were indeed descendants of Israelites, he dedicated himself to converting them to Orthodox Judaism and facilitating their aliya with funds provided by benefactors such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a US-Israeli organisation which raises funds from evangelical Christians for Jewish causes.
Freund says that the Bnei Menashe "are a blessing to the State of Israel. They have proved themselves to be dedicated Jews and committed Zionists, and I see no reason why they should not be allowed to immigrate to Israel 
July 2005: Bnei Menashe complete building a mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath, in Mizoram under the supervision of Israeli rabbis in order to begin the process of conversion to Judaism. Shortly after, a similar mikvah was built in Manipur. In mid-2005, with the help of Shavei Israel and the local council of Kiryat Arba, the Bnei Menashe opened its first community centre in the Israel.
1 April 2005: Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, accepts the Bnei Menashe's claim because of their exemplary devotion to Judaism. His decision is significant because it paves the way for all Bnei Menashe to enter Israel under Israel's Law of Return.
Although the claims of Israelite descent are rejected by most Mizo-Kuki-Chin and called into serious question by some academics, the Bnei Menashe are unshakable in their belief. Indeed, Bnei Menashe who wish to affirm their connection to the Jewish people are required to undergo Orthodox conversions, and every effort is made to ensure that they are accepted according to the strictest interpretation of Jewish law.
In the past two decades, some 1,700 Bnei Menashe have moved to Israel, mostly to settlements in West Bank and Gaza strip (before disengagement). ... Younger members have more opportunities to learn Hebrew and gain employment as soldiers and nurses aides for the elderly and infirm.
The Bnei Menashe's Orthodox conversion would in the future be conducted in India, and they would be recognized as wholly Jewish prior to their arrival in Israel. However, this solution is short-lived because the government of India, under pressure from Mizo-Kuki churches, objects formally to the conversion of its citizens.
The rapid rise in conversions alarms the staunchly evangelical Mizo-Kuki churches and ignites a furious controversy in Mizoram, culminating in top-rated television debates.
November 2005: the Israeli government halts all conversions of the Bnei Menashe in India, citing strained relations between the two countries after Indian officials express concern about the conversions; they indicate that mass conversions are considered illegal in India. Concern may have been triggered after a task force from the Rabbinic Court travelled to India in September 2005 to complete the conversion process for 218 Bnei Menashe.
3. Impressions of the Bnei Manashe from a Neighbor.
The following short sub-article is derived from an account of A. who lives in what may be considered a Bnei Manashe neighborhood on one of the West Bank religious settlements:
# They include good and bad elements, the same as anybody else. On the whole, as a neighbor I get along with them. Some have problems with alcoholism. In our neighborhood this has caused the death of a few. A few are very religious, coming to pray every morning in the synagogue. Their degree of religiosity reflects the general community. Here the community in general is religious and an intense religious atmosphere exists, so the Bnei Manashe consequently are often also observant. In other areas where Bnei Manashe are to be found (such as Afula) and the surroundings are more secular they are probably influenced in the same direction. They work, buy cars, and in general are interested in getting along. I would say that physically and psychologically in spirit they are stronger than some other groups e.g. a portion of the Ethiopians. The boys serve in the army. There are problems with some due to the hardships of adjusting.
# On the one hand they identify with the Jews and with Israel. They want to be accepted. On the other hand they look different, are different, and stay together as different. I have been as good as told that they do not all necessarily really believe they are descended from Manasseh. The notion of Israelite descent is used to help them socially and psychologically. It gives them a stronger stand in their own eyes and in that of others when dealing with Israeli society and their situation.