Dem Bones

LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR

February 9, 2013 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 

“Dem bones, dem bones. dem dry bones: Hear the word of the Lord.”  On December 24 the most recent bone found its place in the arrival at Tel Aviv of 53 Jews from northeast India.  They are part of the Bnei Menashe (or Children of Menasha) tribe who have been in exile from Israel for some 2000 years.

The bones have been coming together since 1948. In the first year of Israel’s independence 203,000 from 42 countries heard the “Word of the Lord” and found their way to the Chosen Land.  For some this might be a long time ago, but it was the year before I graduated from High School.

By the end of 1951 37,000 Jews from Bulgaria had settles in Israel.  30,000 had come from Libya.  44,000 had arrived from Yemen.  121,512 had immigrated from Iraq.  103.732 Polish Jews and 118,940 Jews from Rumania had arrived.  “Dem bones” were coming together some twenty-five hundred years after Ezekiel had uttered, “Hear the word of the Lord.”

The drive for Moroccan independence stimulated another movement of the bones back to their proper place.  Between 1956 and 1957 70,000 Moroccan Jews found their way to Israel.  In similar circumstances in 1956 15,000 Jews from Tunisia “went up” to their ancestral home.  In 1956 14,562 arrived from Egypt.

From 1961 to 1964 215,056 immigrants arrived including 80,000 from Morocco and 80,000 from Rumania.

More recently “Operation Moses” in 1984 moved 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.  The remaining Jewish community in Ethiopia was transported to Israel in operations “Joshua” and “Solomon” in 1985 and 1991 respectively where over 15,000 additional Ethiopian Jews were brought home.

The Bnei Menashe tribe of Indian Jews was displaced in 732 BC when the Assyrian Empire took captive the tribe of Menashe and resettled them in what today is Iraq and Iran.   They migrated along the Silk Road through Persia and China, eventually finding a home in the northeast provinces of Mizoram and Manipur in India.  Although they had lost their Torah scrolls they preserved their traditions.  They kept the Sabbath.  They observed the dietary laws.  They also kept the Jewish festivals and practiced certain sacrificial rites.

These children of the Jewish Diaspora were discovered in modern times by Christian missionaries in 1813.  In 2005, following a rabbinical ruling 1,700 of the Bnei Menashe made their way to Israel.   Recently the Israeli government approved a process whereby the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe will be able to relocate to Israel.  In the words of Ephraim Manlun, a young immigrant,   “For over 2000 years, we’ve been waiting for this moment.”

Ezekiel records the words of the YHWH, “I will open your graves and take you from you from your graves, O my people.  And I will bring you into the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the Lord.”  “Dem bones will riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiise again.”

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at ravscarle@verizon.net).

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