Second Lieutenant Shalem Gin: “I hope more officers from the community will follow”
— Jake Sharfman
History was made yesterday when Shalem Gin became the first IDF officer from the Bnei Menashe community, who are descended from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Gin received the rank of Second Lieutenant in front of friends and family at a ceremony held at the Bahad 1 military base in the Negev.
More after the jump.
Gin, 20, was born in Mizoram, a state in northeastern India. He and his family made Aliyah to Israel in 1995. Gin joined the IDF in 2009 and enlisted in the Combat Engineering Corps, where he finished near the top of his class in his commanders course.
After completing the course with honors, Gin was then sent to officer training, which he officially completed yesterday. He will now return to his unit as a platoon commander.
“This is a dream come true. It brings great joy and pride to me and my family,” Gin said. “As the first Bnei Menashe officer in the IDF, I hope that more from the community will follow.”
“Shalem is a very talented young man with extraordinary ambition,” said Michael Freund, Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel, the organization responsible for the Aliyah of the Bnei Menashe. “When I met Shalem a few years ago, he told me that even as a child in India he always dreamt of becoming an Israeli combat soldier. Nonetheless, I’m sure that Shalem himself did not imagine that he would become the first Bnei Menashe officer in the IDF, but today he has achieved that goal and we are all very proud of him.”
“Shalem Gin made history today,” Freund added, “He is a pioneer in his community who has paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.”
Freund also called on the Israeli government to allow the remaining 7,232 Bnei Menashe in India to make Aliyah as soon as possible. “Shalem Gin’s success story underlines the contribution that the Bnei Menashe wish to make to the State of Israel. It is time to bring about an end to the community’s waiting, and to enable them to come home to Israel as soon as possible,” he said.
About the Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for “sons of Manasseh”): They claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago, and they currently live in India’s northeastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram. Throughout their exile, the Bnei Menashe nonetheless continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. And they continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel. In recent years, Shavei Israel has brought some 1,700 Bnei Menashe back home to Zion. Another 7,232 still remain in India, waiting for the day when they too will be able to return to Israel and the Jewish people.
About Shavei Israel: a non-profit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, with the aim of reaching out to descendants of Jews around the world and strengthening their connection with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The organization is currently active in nine countries and provides assistance to a variety of different communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, the “Hidden Jews” of Poland from the Holocaust era and others. For more information visit: www.shavei.org.
Photos courtesy of Micahl Fattal.