Some 700 Indian Jews will be able to immigrate to Israel this year, a three-fold increase over last year, after the Israeli government decided to double the budget marked for their immigration to the Jewish-state.
India's Bnei Menashe community in the north-eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram, believed to be descendants of one of the 10 lost tribes of Jews, were allowed aliyah (immigration of Jews to Israel) in 2005 after Chief Sephardi Rabbi had accepted them as descendants of Jews.
Speaking in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Elkin told the Immigration and Absorption Committee that the number of Jews coming from the Bnei Menashe community will be almost tripled this year.
Some 700 Bnei Menashe immigrants will be brought during this year, compared to 260 last year, and the budget earmarked for their absorption will be doubled to 2.2 million shekels (about USD 550,000), Elkin told the committee last week.
There are about 3000 members of the community currently living in Israel, about 600 of whom were born here.
Close to 7,000 in Manipur and Mizoram are said to be waiting to immigrate to the Jewish state.
The community is considered to be one of the 10 lost tribes of Jews with claims of being descendants of the ancient Israelite tribe of Menashe.
However, members of the group have faced major hardships in adjusting to life in Israel.
In a recent report published in the daily Haaretz, it was reported that the social affairs bureau of the Kiryat Arba area, the Israeli settlement adjacent to Hebron in the West Bank, which is home to some 700 people of the community, said that the number of needy community members has risen by about 14 per cent from 2014 to 2015.
Some 73 per cent of the community's teenagers are classified as being at risk, the report said.
"Their employment rate is also low due to their difficulty in speaking Hebrew and only 42 per cent of the community's children go to school," Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arba local council, was quoted as having said at the Knesset.
Levinger said the state must allocate funds for assistance to these children in the schools and to prepare them for military service and the workplace.
Elkin said that his ministry will help the new immigrants by adopting measures like recognising the Bnei Menashe as immigrants for 15 years, five years more than other immigrants.
"They need prolonged treatment because they come from another background with hardships," Elkin said, adding that he was advancing a cabinet decision to grant the second generation of Bnei Menashe immigrants assistance as well.
The Bnei Menashe are not the first community to make claims of ancient Jewish ancestry. The Falash Mura, Ethiopians who claimed to be descendants of Jews who converted to Christianity more than a century ago, were also brought to Israel starting in the early 2000s.