Blind Bnei Menashe Immigrant to Light Israel Independence Day Torch at Official State Ceremony

Dina Samte, 19, made Aliyah thanks to Shavei Israel and is the first Bnei Menashe member to receive this national honor

JERUSALEM, May 1 Dina Samte, a blind member of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community, which claims descent from one of Israel’s Lost Tribes, on Saturday celebrated being chosen for the honor of lighting one of the Israel Independence Day torches at the official state ceremony, taking place this Tuesday. Samte also celebrated her 19th birthday at Saturday’s event, which was organized by Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel.
Samte made Aliyah with a group of 230 Bnei Menashe from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur in 2007 thanks to Shavei Israel, which aims to strengthen ties between the Jewish people and descendants of Jews around the world. Samte, who is being honored for her volunteer work with the Jewish Institute for the Blind, was selected by Israel’s Ministry of Sport and Culture to light a torch Tuesday at the official “Yom Ha’atzmaut” ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.
“It’s very exciting and also overwhelming to be chosen for this honor. It is a feeling of true pride for the Bnei Menashe, for my school, for people with special needs, and for all of Israel,” said Samte.
“This is the first time that a Bnei Menashe immigrant from India has been given the honor of lighting a torch on Israel’s Independence Day,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “I remember accompanying Dina on her flight to Israel when we brought her on Aliyah from India in 2007, and I am very excited for her and her family.”
Freund added: “This demonstrates that the Bnei Menashe have truly become accepted as an integral part of Israeli society and the Jewish people.”
The Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire. So far, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have made Aliyah thanks to Shavei Israel, including more than 1,100 in the past four years. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India waiting for the chance to return home to Zion.
About the Bnei Menashe
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 the Sabbath, 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.
About Shavei Israel
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 is currently active in more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to a variety of communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (referred to by the derogatory term “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others. For more information visit: www.shavei.org.

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