(JTA) – A mixed martial arts and kickboxing champion from India is moving to Israel, and he plans to represent the Jewish state in international competition. Obed Hrangchal, 26, who has won national medals in India in several martial arts, is religiously observant and a member of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community. He is set to immigrate with his parents and sister right after the High Holidays. “I have always dreamt of making aliya to the Land of Israel and I am very excited at the prospect of doing so,” he said in a statement released by Shavei Israel, an organization that helps lost communities of Jews or descendants of Jews to rediscover their roots and come to Israel. Hrangchal plans to serve in the Israeli army.
He and his family were the only Jews in the village of Thinghlun, in the state of Mizoram, before selling their home and farmland in 2013 to move to the capital city of Aizawl while awaiting the opportunity to immigrate to Israel. The Bnei Menashe are believed to be descended from the biblical tribe of Manasseh, one of the 10 Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago. In 2005, then-Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar endorsed the Bnei Menashe’s claim to Jewish ancestry, but required them to convert to Orthodox Judaism. More than 4,000 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah in the past two decades. Another 6,500 remain in India but want to move to Israel.
At a meeting in August, Israel’s minister of aliyah and absorption, Penina Tamanu-Shata, told Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund that in cooperation with the Interior Ministry, she was moving ahead with the aliyah of 722 Bnei Menashe, including Hrangchal and his family.
Main Photo: Obed Hrangchal won national medals in India in several martial arts. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)