Gaza Strip jitters for Mizoram Jews - families fear for relatives

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  • Published 22.08.05

Guwahati, Aug. 22: The reverberations of the Israeli evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip are being felt in the Northeast, too.

Ever since the exercise began on Wednesday, families of Mizo and Kuki settlers who left home in the nineties in search of their “promised land” have been glued to TV sets for news of their near and dear ones.

Of the 800-odd Mizos and Kukis who migrated to Israel, over 250 had settled in the Gaza Strip. Some of the Christian Mizos and Kukis of Mizoram and Manipur believe they are the descendants of one of the 10 Biblical lost tribes and that their ancestors were Jews from Israel.

For Eleazer and Doliani Sela of Aizawl, it has been a tense few days with television channels flashing footage of Israeli troops pushing and shoving the settlers out of their homes.

“We are very concerned about our two children, their spouses and our grandchildren. We have not heard from them since the evacuation was announced. They usually call up regularly,” Eleazer told The Telegraph over phone.

The Selas’ son and daughter were at the Gaza settlement of Gush Katif along with their families. The elderly couple has no clue where their children went after the evacuation.

“We have no information at all. We don’t know where they would be settled. Neither the government nor anyone here has any information. I am worried for my children,” said Eleazer, a businessman.

Another worried father admitted that desperation was creeping in. “All I can do is scan the newspapers and watch television for news of her,” he said of his daughter, who migrated to Israel and married a Jew there.

The Mizo and Kuki Jews who migrated to Israel identify themselves as members of the minuscule Beni Menashe community, descendants of one of the 10 lost tribes mentioned in the Bible. The Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel traces and helps descendants of the lost tribes return to the land of their ancestors.

The organisation claims that the Mizos and Kukis are the descendants of the Manasseh tribe, whom the Assyrians exiled from northern Israel in 721 BC.

Like many others, the Selas’ passage to Israel was arranged by the Shavei Israel in the early 1990s. But the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza strip has reopened the old debate in Mizoram about the wisdom of migrating to a country with an uncertain future.

“I hope this will be an eye-opener for those who thought they were migrating to the proverbial land of milk and honey. I know some of the families whose children have migrated to Israel. For them, this evacuation is a big shock,” said Christian scholar P.C. Biaksiama, who has launched a crusade in Mizoram to stop Christians from converting to Judaism.