Blind Bnei Menashe singer Dina Samte lights Israel Independence Day torch

Blind Bnei Menashe singer Dina Samte lights Israel Independence Day torch

Dina Samte lighting the torch at Har Herzl on Tuesday

Dina Samte, a blind member of the Bnei Menashe, received an unprecedented honor for the Indian Jewish community: she was chosen to light one of  the Israel Independence Day torches at the official state ceremony, that took place this week in Jerusalem.

Samte, 19, made aliyah with a group of 230 Bnei Menashe from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur in 2007, with the help of Shavei Israel. Samte, who is being honored for her volunteer work with the Jewish Institute for the Blind, was selected by Israel’s Ministry of Sport and Culture to light a torch Tuesday at the official “Yom Ha’atzmaut” ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.

“It’s very exciting and also overwhelming to be chosen for this honor. It is a feeling of true pride for the Bnei Menashe, for my school, for people with special needs, and for all of Israel,” said Samte.

“This is the first time that a Bnei Menashe immigrant from India has been given the honor of lighting a torch on Israel’s Independence Day,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “I remember accompanying Dina on her flight to Israel when we brought her on aliyah from India in 2007, and I am very excited for her and her family.”

Freund added: “This demonstrates that the Bnei Menashe have truly become accepted as an integral part of Israeli society and the Jewish people.”

The Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire. So far, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah thanks to Shavei Israel, including more than 1,100 in the past four years. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India waiting for the chance to return home to Zion.

The picture above is of Dina celebrating her 19th birthday with her family and members of the Bnei Menashe community in Israel. Here’s a video of the birthday celebration:

Here’s a video of Dina at the Har Herzl Independence Day celebration:

And another video of Dina performing with Israel superstar Moshe Peretz (with the Shalva Band):

Dina performs regularly with the Shalva band. Here’s another video:

We also have some photos of Dina over the years. Here’s a gallery:

And one last video: a profile of Dina from a few years back – in English.