Divided into Two: ‘Gora’ and ‘Kala’, Bene Israel is a Jewish community from India

An Bene Israel Family Image source: indianquarterly.com
  • Bene Israels are also known as Indian Jews
  • There are total 80,000 Indian Jews in Israel
  • Most Bene Jews are of view that they left India because their community growth was continuously declining in India

Bene Israel meaning ‘Sons of Israel’ are said to have migrated from India over the last few decades. It will surprise many that they are also known as Indian Jews community. This  is one of the 4 sub-communities of Jews and now in Israel, there are about 80,000 Indian Jews.

Jewish lady. Image Souce: Wikimedia Commons
Jewish lady. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The population includes- Cochin jews, Baghdadi Jews (Jews belong from Kolkata) and those belonging to ‘Manashe’ tribe from Manipur. However, the Bene Israel continues to believe that their ancestors belong to the Konkan area in India.

After India achieved freedom in 1947 and a year later, Israel was formed in 1948. All Jews migrated to Israel as they felt their conditions were precarious in India. Bene Israel believes that around 1000 AD Jewish merchant David Rahabi came into India led the foundation of Bene Israel, said thehindu.com report.

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Bene Israel divides themselves into two groups- ‘Gora’ means white and ‘Kala’ means black. It says that whose both mother and father are Jews falls in Gora community while the Kala constitutes people whose fathers are Jewish and mother from any other community. There is a discrimination in these two communities. Gora defines them as superiors and does not mingle with Kala and member from Gora community cannot marry anyone from Kala community.

The Bene Jews had a unique custom known as ‘Malida’. In Malida, Bene Israel sits with a plate full of rice, spices, fruits and flowers. During this, they praise Lord by singing songs and narrate two stories about Prophet Elijah.

Malida custom of Bene Jews. Image Souce: forward.com
Malida custom of Bene Jews. Image Source: forward.com

According to a report in The Hindu, Bene Israel does not consider themselves as Jews until the 20th century. They were known as ‘Yehudi’ or ‘Bene Israel’ until the 20th century, but now they refer themselves as Jews. Today, many people in India also refer Jews as Bene Israel or Israel.

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Most Bene Jews share the view that they left India because their community growth was continuously declining in India. Unlike, UK and USA, they do not enjoy the same position as other Jews in Israel. While most of the Jews migrated to Israel, a small population migrated to English-speaking countries like Australia, UK and USA.

Now there are only 5,000 Bene Israels are left in India, out of which, more than 90% lives in Thana, a suburb of Mumbai.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.