Are they one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel who came and settled along the west coast of India or are they refugees who fled from persecution as a new faith swept through Northern Arabia in the 7th century CE. The 5000 people strong Bene Israelis or ‘Children of Israel’ are a fascinating albeit fast dwindling community that has clutched on to its history and legends along the coast near Mumbai. The most famous of these legends takes you to a small village called Sagaon in East Raigad District near Alibaug. It is believed that it is from here that Prophet Elijah ascended to heaven. Whether it was from here or from Haifa in Israel, where it is believed that God took him to heave through a whirlwind, as other Israelis believe, what you cannot deny is that legends, myths and history come together to script a fascinating story around this little known community.
The Jews landed and settled in India in different waves. The Malabar Jews came in approximately in the 11th century BCE, the Baghdadi Jews during the 18th Century CE and the Bene Israelis who came in approximately between 7-8th century BCE. While this was in the west coast, recent discoveries indicate that early Jews were also present in the east – in Hyderabad and as far in as Mizoram.
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