(Hebrew: “Sons of Israel”) one of three groups of Jews in India. The origins of the Bene-Israel are uncertain, but because of their observance of certain traditions and lack of observance of others, they are believed to have escaped persecution in Galilee before the 2nd century BCE and to have shipwrecked on the coast of India. Seven couples are believed to have survived, without the benefit of a material culture. Isolated from other Jews, they largely assimilated into India's caste system, though they practiced Jewish dietary laws, circumcised male children on the eighth day, and did not work on Saturday. Present-day Bene-Israel bear a physical resemblance to the Marathi people and speak Marathi and English. Many have emigrated to Israel.
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