Who Could Have Predicted This?

The Jewish Daily Forward details how the Bnei Menashe, a group of people from India’s easternmost states who are converting to Judaism and who claim, against genetic evidence, to be descended from the “lost tribes,” have adapted to life in Israel:

According to Malachi Levinger, the head of the local council of Kiryat Arba, a city in the West Bank where 700 Bnei Menashe have settled, including many placed there by Shavei Israel, at least 73% of the group’s youth are considered at risk.

With their parents mostly absent because of their need to work long hours at low-end jobs, teenagers from the community are prone to alcohol abuse, petty crimes and encounters with the police, said Yoni Nachum, coordinator of Bnei Menashe programs for the local council. According to Nachum, the Bnei Menashe, like earlier communities from Ethiopia or Morocco, have seen their traditional family structure and support network upended by their move to Israel.


Once a year, Beit Miriam celebrates Bnei Menashe heritage during a “Roots Night,” but Goita said that his identity now springs from his new hometown in the Judean Hills — an exclusively Jewish settlement near the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron that has been a flashpoint during the past eight months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. Goita said that his childhood in the West Bank has motivated him to enlist in a military combat unit that he will enter upon graduating from yeshiva.

As the Bnei Menashe celebrate their return to “Zion,” they count teenagers like Goita among their rare success stories.

But for most, while parents often work hard in cleaning or security jobs, “children are hanging out in the streets, smoking, stealing, drinking,” said Hedva Hadida, director of the Beit Miriam afterschool program.

The Israeli Right, people who ought to know better, seem to support this, because at least they aren’t Arabs:

In pushing for the immigration of groups with uncertain Jewish connections to Israel, Freund has cited ideological reasons grounded in demography.

The “others like them” refers to several groups of ‘Jews’ in Africa, Igbos, Ugandans,  and Zimbabweans, who might end up making the Bnei Menashe look tame in comparison. Willingness to practice Judaism will not be enough to “select out” the traits of the wider population.

There really is no reason to have to resort to such measures to increase the Israeli Jewish population. Israeli Arabs don’t have much higher fertility rates that Israeli Jews, which can be seen in the religious demographics of new mothers in 2015, who are 74% Jewish. The Israeli population as a whole is 75% Jewish.* Israel would only be in trouble if it decided to annex the West Bank, something which it would be very stupid to do.

*These two numbers may count part-Jews differently.

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