[Field Report] Are there Jews of the tribe of Manasseh in India?
Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

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Visiting the stie of the “Aliyah Ministry” in the Indian Jewish Repatriation Operation (4)

In Manipur, India, descendants of the Kuki tribe, who belong to the tribe of Manasseh, who inhabited the northern kingdom, and who are believed to be “B’nai Meneses,” reside in Manipur, India. Some Korean churches are putting a considerable amount of financial and effort into the “Aliyah Ministry” to help them return to their homeland according to the words of the Bible. We listened to the reaction of location Christians about them. <Editor>

The third interview. Believer Pu Zamkholien, who is the king of the Soomchinboom sect of the Kuki tribe.

This interview was conducted in the village of “Soomchinboom” sect of the “Kuki” tribe where we had to drive for about two hours on an unpaved road from the town of “Churachampra,” which is more than two hours away from the capital, “Imphal” and from “Manipur,” the India’s remote region. This was the eastern tip of India where Myanmar could be seen just beyond. I was hard to believe that I had come this far to find the truth in Mumbai on the west coast.

When I got the king’s home, the “king” was sitting on the balcony wearing only shorts and a running shirt. (The official name is chief, but almost everywhere he is referred to primarily as king. All the pastor and locals I met in previous interview always referred to the chief of the Kuki tribe as the “king.”)

▲ The house of the king of the Soomchinboom sect of the Kuki tribe. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won
▲ Neighboring houses other than the royal family. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

I thought that he would be wearing a traditional tribal outfit or a Western-style suit, so his appearance was a bit surprising. Soon after, a couple of men, perfectly and respectfully dressed, came to see the king with a petition for something. However, the king sent them back in just two minutes, saying that he was busy because of “previous guests from Korea and my son (Brother Jerry).” I felt sorry for them, but I could feel that the king’s power and authority were still considerable. (Every time I used expressions like “Your Highness,” “Palace,” and “Prince” cautiously, the king burst into laughter, and those expressions were taken as high level jokes. However, the title “king” was so naturally incorporated into everyday life.)

▲ From left, Missionary Jeongha Won, Missionary Chao and the king of the Soomchinboom sect of the Kuki tribe. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

At the end of the 90’s, the last tribal war broke out between the Kuki tribe and the Nagas tribe.  They cut off each other’s head, hung it up, and even fought a serious war to the point of burning down the church(es). Missionary Chao (the Nagas tribe) and brother Jerry (the Kuki tribe), who studied together in the capital Imphal, were close friends beyond the racial strife. Less than two years after the war, missionary Chao, who was in his teens at that time, came to this village to spend Christmas time despite the opposition of his entire family.  We even joked and laughed, saying “If the Kuki people are descendants of Israel, then the Nagas people must be descendants of Amalek” as a joke.

Together with the king’s second son, brother Jerry, missionary Chao, who is visiting for the first time in 20 years, and I received a great welcome and entered the king’s house. The king of this region, a believer Pu Zamkholien, was in his sixties or seventies, but spoke English very well.

▲ “The king’s house” is written all over the house. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

King (the chief): Are you from South Korea or North Korea? (When I replied that I was from South Korea, he gave a long speech about how dangerous Kim Jung-Eun is. It was amazing that he knew exactly what was going on in the world, even in the deep jungle where there was almost no Internet or broadcasting.) What brought you to our tribe?

Pastor Jungha Won: I am pastor Jungha Won, a Korean Methodist missionary, who went to seminary school with missionary Yuna Kim, a Korean missionary who is the wife of missionary Chao (who is the friend of the king’ son Jerry). (Genealogy is important here.)

Last year (2021), some Korean Christians raised whopping 2.18 million rupees ($276,000) to send Manipur Kuki Jews to Israel, and with the money, 548 people settled in Israel. However, I was concerned about this activity because I know how evangelical the Manipur Kuki people are (98.1%), and how large an amount of money that is. Are they really Jews? Don’t you think there are some people who converted for money or Israeli citizenship? I want to hear wisdom, information and advice from you.

King (the chief): You have come very far. Actually, I have a lot to say on this subject. First of all, how are those people Jewish? Did they even do blood tests?


In fact, DNA tests were conducted, but they did not turn out to be Jewish. (Reference article)

Jerry (the second son of the king and a friend of missionary Chao): Israel knows all the DNA test results, but because Israel lacks soldiers, it accepts converted Kuki people. The Kuki people are mostly serving on the front lines.


Israel has a severe shortage of soldiers, enforcing conscription for both men and women. Even Muslims and Druze with Israeli citizenship are required to serve in the military. However, Israel offers exemption from military service for orthodox Jews (Haredi), who make up 12% of the population.

Q: If so, is Israel accepting only young people?

Jerry: Israel prefers young people aged 16 to 17. And, Jewish committees also accept bribes from those who want to immigrate to Israel.

Q: Does Israel accept old people too?

King (the chief): Now older people are accepted.

Jerry: Last year (2021 – with high probability Korean money), they even sent Nagas to Israel. Nagas Judaism…. How on earth can we stop this false conversions?


The Nagas tribe is the main ethnic group in the state of Nagas land and has the highest rate of evangelization. The Nagas people are a completely different people, traditionally hostile to the Kuki people of Manipur. However, it is said that converts of the Nagas tribe to Judaism began to be sent to Israel.  Now, even the logic that the “Kuki” tribe is the lost tribe of Manasseh has completely collapsed.

King (the chief): It would be difficult if we couldn’t find out and prove people’s sincerity. There are people who don’t want to work here, and there are many who, because of their drug abuse, think that it would be better to go to Israel and become a proselytist, where drugs are not available. However, our Kuki ancestors were all Christians, and there was no Judaism. We are all Christians. None of our ancestors ever said that we were a lost tribe, that we were Jews. How can we be Jews?

▲ The town of Churachandpur, the center of the Kuki people. There are crosses all over the place, and everywhere, there are churches with fine buildings, which are fine even by Korean standards. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

Q: Has anyone converted to Judaism in this town?

King (the chief): There are no converted people in our village. However, from the village right next door, near the border with Myanmar, in the village of Bahyeang tribe, the tribe’s king and his brothers and sons all went to Israel. Now the chief there is a sister (the queen) of the previous king. Those who left for Israel are sending money whenever the queen needs money.

Q: Now the town’s queen is a Jew?

King (the chief): It seems that she is a Jewish.

Q: What about the villagers?

King (the chief): They are Christians (smiling). We weren’t interested from the first time. We did not convert because we are Christians from our ancestors.

Q: Have you ever heard of people called “Messianic Jews” who keep their Christian faith despite their Jewish identify?

King (the chief): Well, I mean, there are all kinds of Christians.

Jerry: Paster Won, please gather good points of each denomination and form one denomination. Hahaha.


Northeast India was one of the places marked in white on the inside (unexplored lands) almost until the very end, when the map of the world was nearing completion. It is so remote that there was even a headhunting custom of hunting heads of a hostile tribe until the previous generation. (Even Jerry, who is younger than me, said that he had seen skeletons with hair still attached to them after a battle when he was young.) As a result, many missionaries came to this area with the goal of “complete missionary work to the ends of the earth.” Further, if a tribe believes in the Baptists, the hostile tribe accepts Christianity, but there are also activities such as accepting other denominations. Therefore, the evangelization rate of the Kuki tribe is 98.1%. Baptists are the most numerous, but indeed all kinds of denominations are mixed. The idea of the Messianic Jews is not very persuasive (because it is not believed that they are Jewish descents, in the first place), the number is small and there is no particular tribe that lives together, and thus it seemed that they were only seen as funny friends or meek people who didn’t want to give up their faith but wanted to get a change to go to Israel.

Q: So, is there a Jewish village? And are there synagogues in Jewish villages?

Jerry: Something similar to synagogues are only found in the Churachandpur township. Although there are villages where it is assumed that the majority of the people are Jewish, I have never heard of synagogues in the tribal villages. (Perhaps there are still churches that have been established since ancient times. )

Q: How did Jews originate in your society? I’ve heard the story like this. The Kuki tribe has a harvest festival song called “Shik pui” and in the song, there are pillars of cloud and fire, as well as the parting of the Red Sea. Some people say the song is the evidence that they are the lost tribe of Manasseh. What do you think of that opinion?

Missionary Chao: The song is a song of the Hmar (H is silent) people on the Myanmar side, not the Kuki tribe. Although there are some linguistic similarities with the Kuki tribe, they are distinctly different races. Moreover, those who now claim to be lost Jews are part of the Kuki, Mizo and Chin tribes. The Hmar tribe people who have the song do not claim that they are lost Jews.

Dave (the son of missionary Chao): If you look at the lyrics of this song from Wikipedia, there are weapons that our tribe does not use much in war, such as bows and shields. Furthermore, northeast India has no sea, and thus it makes no sense to have a song about the Red Sea in a tribal society at the time when people lived without knowing the existence of the sea.

Q: Then, you mean that since the Hmar tribal people have been Christians for over 100 years, the harvest festival song was influenced by the Biblical knowledge they already possessed. Besides, there are no people claiming to be Jews among the Hmar tribal people, but it makes no sense for other tribes (the Kuki, Mizo and Chin tribes) to claim that they are Jewish using the lyrics of the song as an evidence.

King (the chief): The song is not from this place, but from “Mizoram.” I don’t know how the song started. Since we are Christians, we are not very interested in those who claim to be Jewish. Jews do not accept the New Testament. If someone does not accept the New Testament, he/she will only be used by the Jews. One day some might come back, but we don’t want to take them back because they’ve already left us.

Jerry: There are other complications as well. The Meithei tribal people (the main people of Manipur, mostly Hindu) covet our land, and they say “You are Israelites, so get out of here and go to Israel.” Originally, until India’s independence in 1947, the Meithei people lived in cities and plains as kingdoms, and thus they did not register as a “tribal group.” But now they are asking the central government to recognize them as a “tribal group.” Their request is to occupy the lands set aside for the tribes. The majority of the Kuki people do not consider themselves Jewish, but the Meithei Hindus mock us as Jews and try to take our lands from us Christians.

▲ The building commemorating the 100th anniversary of the coming of the gospel. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

King (the chief): Let me introduce you to the story of the king family of Bahyeang tribe who went to Israel. His oldest son took too much drug and became very addicted. So, the king thought he (the son) would die if he stayed here (drugs were so easy to get). That’s why the king and his family took their son and went to Israel. And he is now married to a Jewish girl who has returned (Aliyah) from Russia. I don’t know what else we can do. We can only pray for God’s guidance. Please take a look around the tribal village with my son, and pray before you go.


The Kuki tribe of Manipur lie on the border with Myanmar, and some Kuki people also live in Myanmar. And the place is the “Golden Triangle,” a world-class drug production center. I have seen opium fields, from a distance. Drugs are too common here.

Closing the interview

The land ruled by the king, viewed from the high ground, was from the ridge at the end of the horizon to the ridge on the opposite horizon. Even at a rough estimate, it certainly looked larger than a single “Gu” in Seoul. But the population was said to be about a thousand people. According to Jerry, accepting more people is a burden in many ways (please refer to the interview with the Lutheran bishop from Field Report 3). Further, the king talked a lot about the last tribal war in the late 90s, but since the story had nothing to do with this topic, I didn’t write it here. However, I thought that they had suffered so much because the population (miliary force) was small compared to the land.

The king and brother Jerry also raised the question like ‘is conversion to Judaism increasing because many churches in Churachanpur build buildings well (there were many buildings that were fine even by Korean standards) but do not help the poor?’ However, I thought that conversion to Judaism was growing because Christian kings could not accept people who had no place to go.

Of course, it is understandable that these people have to protect the property, safety, and internal peace of the entire tribe, but considering the words that I heard in the previous interview with the Lutheran bishop that Jewish kings are more accepting of outsiders into their tribes on the condition that the outsiders convert (because existing converts go to Israel), I was heartbroken by the situation.

The king asked for prayer after the interview, and after the prayer, he gave a special gift to missionary Chao and me. The gift was a traditional handmade shawl of the Kuki tribe. I didn’t know the value of the gift, but missionary Chao was very surprised and delighted. It was said to the Kuki people that the all-red shawl was only for royalty or VVIPs. He said that there are Kuki people in Senapati where he lives (four hours by car), and he wants to show them the shawl when he meets them.

▲ The chief’s wife presents a red shawl. It usually takes a week for an expert to make this kind of red shawl, and it takes a month for a non-expert. Picture: Provided by Jungha Won
▲ A handshake with the king of the Soomchinboom sect of the Kuki tribe Picture: Provided by Jungha Won

Another thing that remains in my mind is that the Liberation Army of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was stationed here in the border area between Imphal and Myanmar in 1942 (I thought I was the first Korean to visit this place).

They had come to this end of the earth for the liberation of Korea, and 70 years later, I came to this place to break the evil link that make Christians convert to Judaism.

In next episode, I will introduce a review of a visit to one of the most historic and powerful synagogue in the area. <To be continued> [Gospel Prayer News]

Jungha Won | Indian local correspondent

Related article
[Field Report] There are no churches or mission agencies that preach the gospel to Jews in India
[Field Report] Poor Christians are converting to Judaism to survive
[Field Report] How should we see the Korean churches’ operation to repatriate Jews

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