The Lemba & the Sena are Israelites from Austral Africa
Web about Africa: http://www.ikuska.com
luSaKa, Zambia's capital, is not far from Lemba lands & bears the SK consonants from which Israelites were named after their forefather iSaaC.
How about if the SeNa of Yemen, from which the Lembas came, is SaNa , current capital of Yemen ?
Mwali or Mohéli: name of the only Lemba god. Is it by chance that this island is in the Comoros, a country close to Lemba & Sena lands? Are the CoMoRans, or part of them, related to the Lembas? The ancient Israelites were called "House of Khumri" (after one of their kings) by the Mesopotamians & later they were known by this name. CoMoRos has the consonants of KhuMRi, so some Israelites, the Lembas perhaps, may have founded a colony in these islands. Moron means our lord in Hebrew. The suffix in "i" means from or of. For example Israeli is from Israel, Iraqi from Iraq & so on. Then Moron or Moran means "Our Lord". Moroni or Morani "of Our Lord" or "from Our Lord". Is it a coincidence that Moroni is the capital of the Comoros? Moroni is found in two places. In the Book of Mormon, the capital of Comoros & somewhere else. It's also the name of a Masai warrior, also called Ol-murrani. Masais have an israelite origin claim. In fact we can read in 1 Chronicles 9:12 and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah, and Masai the son of Adiel, the son of Jahzerah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Meshillemith, the son of Immer.
Emlembe is the highest mountain in Swaziland. It is located in the east uKhahlamba (or Drakensberg) mountain range, on the border with South Africa. Both emLeMBe & ukhaLaMBa have the LMB consonants of the LeMBas & are not far from the LeMBa areas.
Wuriga, a Lemba leader, tells of old map which locates a town called “Lemba” in Israel during the Hasmonaean kingdom (134-63 BCE), and cites oral history of gold and ivory traders coming to Africa from the area of Yemen. Wuriga says, “They did not part ways with their Jewish practices,” although they picked up Arab and African customs during their migrations.
Findings & origins on the Lemba
A fascinating Jewish group in Africa is the Lemba, or Lembaa, who number 50,000-70,000 in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and the South African region of Venda. According to their legends, Lemba ancestors came by boat from a northern town called Sena. It is not entirely clear where that legendary town is located as towns with similar names abound in Israel, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Yemen, but the latter seems the most likely possibility. Lemba tombstones are decorated with Stars of David. Like other Jewish groups, Lemba encourage endogamy and have specific conversion practices for non-Lembas.
The Lemba are a traditionally endogamous group speaking a variety of Bantu languages who live in a number of locations in southern Africa. They claim descent from Jews who came to Africa from "Sena." "Sena" is variously identified by them as Sanaa in Yemen, Judea, Egypt, or Ethiopia. A previous study using Y-chromosome markers suggested both a Bantu and a Semitic contribution to the Lemba gene pool, a suggestion that is not inconsistent with Lemba oral tradition. To provide a more detailed picture of the Lemba paternal genetic heritage, we analyzed 399 Y chromosomes for six microsatellites and six biallelic markers in six populations (Lemba, Bantu, Yemeni-Hadramaut, Yemeni-Sena, Sephardic Jews, and Ashkenazic Jews). The high resolution afforded by the markers shows that Lemba Y chromosomes are clearly divided into Semitic and Bantu clades. Interestingly, one of the Lemba clans carries, at a very high frequency, a particular Y-chromosome type termed the "Cohen modal haplotype," which is known to be characteristic of the paternally inherited Jewish priesthood and is thought, more generally, to be a potential signature haplotype of Judaic origin. The Bantu Y-chromosome samples are predominantly (>80%) YAP+ and include a modal haplotype at high frequency. Assuming a rapid expansion of the eastern Bantu, we used variation in microsatellite alleles in YAP+ sY81-G Bantu Y chromosomes to calculate a rough date, 3,000-5,000 years before the present, for the start of their expansion.
A number of genetic studies have been conducted on the Lemba. In 1996, Spurdle & Jenkins showed that more than 50% of the Lemba Y-DNA is Semitic in origin, approximately 40% is sub-Saharan African, and the ancestry of the remainder cannot be resolved. Perhaps surprisingly, a parallel study of mtDNA exhibited a very different pattern: practically no evidence of female ancestry from the Middle East can be found, as the female forebears of the Lemba were overwhelmingly African. Such findings indicate that the Lemba descend from the intermarriage of Semitic—though not necessarily Jewish—males and local African women.
A further study by Thomas et al. (2000) showed that a substantial number of Lemba men carry a particular polymorphism on the Y-chromosome known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH). This genetic signature is associated with Jewish lineages that trace their descent from the priests, known as cohanim in Hebrew. According to the Jewish tradition, these men are direct male descendants of the Biblical Aaron, the older brother of Moses. (While many of the Cohanim bear last names like Cohen, Kogan, Katz, and the like, the correlation between the last name and whether a given man is a cohen is far from perfect). Curiously, the priestly sub-clan within the Lemba, the Buba, carries most of the CMH found in the ethnic group. However, another study has shown that some 34% of men in Yemen also exhibit close similarity to CMH, despite being found not to be closely related when more microsatellite markers are taken into account. Therefore, a larger number microsatellite markers would need to be tested in order to verify whether the Lemba Y-DNA is indeed derived from Jewish cohanim rather than other possible Semitic ancestors.
The Lemba have clan names like Sadiqui and Hamisi that are clearly Semitic and have an enigmatic identity that traces their origins to an ancient Jewish community in what is now Yemen. Although scholars had long dismissed their claims as having been adopted from tales spun by missionaries, research now confirms that the black-skinned Lemba are genetic cousins of white Sephardic Jews. A team of geneticists has determined that many Lemba carry in their male chromosome a set of DNA sequences that is distinctive of the Jewish priests believe to be the descendants of Aaron, one of the twelve original Jewish tribes.
The Lemba of Southern Africa
"We came from Sena, we crossed Pusela, we rebuilt Sena. In Sena they died like flies. We came from Hundji, to Chilimani. From Chilimani to Wedza. The tribes went to Zimbabwe. They built the walls and lived on the hill. Mwali sent the star. From Zimbabwe to Mberengwe. From Mberengwe to Dumghe. We carried the drum. We came to Venda, Solomon led us. Baramina was our ancestor." -- Ndinda Song
The Lemba are a paradoxical population of tens of thousands of self-proclaimed Jews who live in mostly in Malawi, Zimbabwe and the South African region of Venda. Their tribal lore, as told through the above "Ndinda song" which some Lemba sing during funerals and harvest festivals, is extensive, muddled and complex. "We came from Sena," they claim, though none of them can say exactly where Sena is. Is it a town in Israel north of Jericho, as some Lemba claim? Is it a region of Yemen, as some ethnographers suggest, or a village on the Zambesi River in Mozambique, as British explorer and Orientalist Tudor Parfitt, who lived with the Lemba for six months to try to determine their true origin, believes? According to tribal lore, the Lemba are descendants of attendants of the Perspectives
My letter to a Lemba friend & his response
Me: I found very interesting to find an Israelite in the South of Africa although I believe it. I researched lately about the Lemba but couldn't find as much info as I wanted to. Since you are a Lemba I would like to receive some responses about it if you don't mind. Can you give me the name of every Lemba village, Lemba town, Lemba city including the region, province, district, state & country where that particular village, town or city is placed? Can you give me the amount of Lemba people living in that particular village, town or city? To finish this can you give me a complete list of Lemba last names & Lemba remarked indviduals? That's my long list of information on the Lemba. I hope I didn't bother you. Hurrah for Israel!
Lemba man: Shalom, No problem at all . Lembas are much concentrated on the mining belt from Mozambique to South Africa. In Zimbabwe , we are found in the areas of Wedza, Buhera ., Gutu , Majiri, Mapakomhere, Renco Mine, Chivi, Mberengwa and Dande. These places I have mentioned are not far from each other. These places are found in the Manicaland province, Masvingo province and the Midlands province. There are leaders whom you can approach in these communities , eg the Lemba chiefs, or the Lemba headman. Currently , because of my influential public office, I am their spokesman. You can find the Lemba last names if you go to one of our Facebook groups, Lemba cultural association LCA. In South Africa, you find them at a place called, Mussina and Thouyandou. Lemba villages are found in these places. Sorry I cannot know all their names. I hope I have given you the information that you needed. But, tell me something about yourself, what you do, where from, and why you need all this information. I would be more comfortable to deal with someone I know his back ground and his motives. Shalom.
Me: I just wanted to know where Dande is? This is what I found. Dande is In the Mt Darwin area.
Lemba man: The place is actually called Chitsungo. The Lemba there are the one who recently moved there from Gutu and Buhera during the Ian Smith regime. They immigrated there.
Me: This respectable Lemba man told me he had a dream of the Lemba making Aliyah to Israel. I felt this was a God's sent revelation. I couldn't deny what I felt about his dream was true. It reminded me of the scripture...
Joel 2:28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
The Lemba/Vhalemba/Varemba are scattered all over South Africa and they are directly related to the Varemba in Zimbabwe and the Mwenye in Mozambique and elsewhere.
I decided to conduct my field research from a qualitative research point of view, mainly in three geographical areas, namely Sekhukhuneland , Venda and the southern parts of Zimbabwe .There are 100,000-member Lemba tribe of southern Africa. Lemba practice circumcision and don´t eat “impure” animals, which include pigs and creatures without split hooves. One Lemba version of their past claims the tribe left ancient Israel for Yemen and then wandered down Africa (The Jerusalem Report, July 15).
The oldest, recorded oral tradition of origin of the Lemba, also known as, musavi (buyer/trader), nyakuwana (the man who finds the things which are bought), or mulungu (white man or the man from the north) holds that their Israelite ancestors came by boat to Africa as traders, from a remote place, a city called Sena, on the other side of the Phusela. They do not know where or what 'Phusela' was, but in Africa , they erected trading posts at different places, and each time some of their people were left behind to take charge. They were in search of gold and after each trading expedition they went back to their country by sea. They kept themselves separate from the local peoples, but after a war broke out in their country they, (the savi [merchants]) could not return. They did not bring their wives along and now had to take wives from the local peoples ( w/vhazendji , 'heathens') - Rozwi, Karanga, Zezuru and Govera tribes. In Africa they rebuilt Sena in more than one place.
Parfitt investigated and indeed found a ancient city named Sena, at the end of the wadi Hadramaut, just before the valley turns away towards the sea. It was situated on the trade route, from the sea to Terim. The valley that leads from Sena in the eastern Hadramaut to an old port on the Yemini coast called Sayhut, is the Wadi al-Masilah. Parfitt believes that Masilah may be the 'Phusela' of Lemba oral tradition.
Further investigation showed that some of the clan and sub-clan names of the Lemba such as Hadzhi, Hamisi, Bakali, Sadiki and Seremane correlate with commonplace names in the eastern Hadramaut. Not one of them had the means to ascertain in advance, whether their clan names correlated with the commonplace names in the Hadramaut. One conclusion is that their oral traditions are very old.
From DNA samples, taken specifically from their priestly clan, the Buba, a very close relation has emerged between them (the Buba) and those of the cohaniem (priesthood) in Israel and all over the world.
Lemba clan names & some last names seem as semitic as their DNA
Ovakale Dzimbabwe- meaning the ones who built Great ZIMBABWE. Va Hasani -from HASSAN, Vaseremani-from SULMAN, Va Hadzi- From HADJI, Va Sarifu-from SALIFF, Va Hammadi- from MUHAMMAD, VaHamisi- from HAMMISH, Va Mhani-from MANNI. So you can see the link between these names and our ISRAEL and YEMEN Counterparts.
The construction of the Great Zimbabwe is claimed by the Lemba. This ethnic group of Zimbabwe and South Africa has a tradition of ancient Jewish or South Arabian descent through their male line, which is supported by recent DNA studies, and female ancestry derived from the Karanga subgroup of the Shona. Are the Shona (or part of them) Israelites, being the Lemba the only ones or the core that preserve Hebrew costums?
The Lemba are considered to be Black African Semites. They spoke Lemba, nowadays extinct. Today they speak Shona, Venda, English & Portuguese. Sometimes they are considered as part of the Venda although it is known their Semitic origin. Venda & Shona are the southern Bantu languages & peoples that neighbor the Vharemba.
They came from Jews that came from Yemen. Some scholars think they come from Arabs because of their last names & some costums. The truth is their ancestors were Jews from Yemen & Yemen hosted a large Israelite population since ancient times. That's probably why Yemeni Moslems still have as high percentage of 67% of the Cohen genes. The Israelite numbers in Yemn were so large that this might be the reason why Yemen became officially Jewish under the name of Kingdom of Himyar.
Inspite their preference for endogamy there must have been some marriages out of the Lemba community with their Shona & Venda neighbors as DNA proves it. Some of their Bantu neighbors may have some Lemba DNA too. Blowing the shofar is a typical Israelite costume. I believe the Lemba coexistence & neighboring with Bantu (Shona & Venda) peoples must have had an impact in those peoples. So you could find several individual Shonas & Vendas with Lemba genes & even Israelite traditions like the blowing of the shofar.
Shona witch doctor
There are numerous versions of their myths of origin, but they generally tell of migrating from the North (which is common to many African ethnicities.) According to Lemba tradition, their male ancestors were Near Eastern Jews who left Judea about 2,500 years ago and settled in a place called Senna in the Arabian peninsula (present-day Yemen). Much later, they migrated into North East Africa.
According to the British scholar, Tudor Parfitt, who published a book on his findings in 1993, the location of Senna was more than likely in Yemen, specifically, in the village of Sanāw within the easternmost portion of the Wadi Hadhramaut. The city has had a Jewish population since ancient times, but since 1948 and the founding of the State of Israel, as well as later wars, it has dwindled to a few hundred. In Lemba tradition, Sena has the semi-mythical status of a sacred city of origin and hopes for eventual return.
According to Lemba oral tradition, their male ancestry originally comprised several male "white people from over the sea” who came to southeast Africa from a country which boasted large cities in order to obtain gold. After becoming established in Africa, at some point, the tribe split into two groups, one staying in Ethiopia and the other travelling farther south, along the east coast.
The Lemba claim that this second group settled in Tanzania and Kenya, building what was referred to as another Sena, or "Sena II". Others supposedly settled in Malawi, where their descendants reside today. Some settled in Mozambique, eventually migrating to Zimbabwe and South Africa. They claim to have constructed Great Zimbabwe, now a monument. Ken Mufuka, a black Zimbabwean archaeologist thinks that the Lemba may have contributed but would not have been solely responsible. Tudor Parfitt and Magdel le Roux think that they at least helped construct the massive city. But, most academics agree that the construction of the enclosure at Great Zimbabwe is largely attributable to the ancestors of the Shona, who were first to displace the indigenous Khoi-San Bushmen from the region. Such works were typical of their ancestral civilisations.
The Lemba have endogamous marriage patterns, discouraging marriage to non-Lemba. Normative Orthodox Judaism today recognises only matrilineal descent as determining Judaism from birth . Patrilineal descent was once the norm among the Israelites. The restrictions on intermarriage with non-Lemba make it nearly impossible for a male non-Lemba to become a member. Lemba men who marry non-Lemba women are expelled from the community unless the females agree to live according to Lemba traditions. A woman who marries a Lemba man must learn and practice the Lemba religion, dietary rules and other customs. The woman may not bring any cooking equipment from her previous home. Initially, the woman may have to shave her head. Their children must be brought up as Lemba. If the Lemba had Jewish ancestors, the requirement to shave the head may date back to rituals associated with converting the first Lemba women to Judaism, the means for the Jewish males to acquire women. Genetic MtDNA data (see below) has shown no connection among the women with Jewish ancestors.
According to Tooke, in the 19th and early 20th centuries the Lemba were highly esteemed by surrounding tribes in the Zoutpansberg region of South Africa for their mining and metalwork skills. He wrote in his 1937 book that the other tribes regarded the Lemba as outsiders. According to articles written durin the early 1930s, in the 1920s the Lembas' medical knowledge earned them respect among tribes in South Africa. Parfitt claimed in his article on the Lemba in his 2002 book that colonial Europeans had their own reasons for distinguishing some tribes instead of others as indigenous to Africa, because it gave them a greater right to be in the continent. Modern DNA evidence, however, confirms the extra-African origin of some of the Lembas' ancestors. By contrast, the lead anthropologist in Zimbabwe firmly places them among African peoples, ignoring the DNA evidence.
Sena Israelites from Mozambique
It's interesting that in Mozambique, not far from Lemba Inhabited areas, there's a tribe with the very name of the location from which the Lemba claim to come from: Sena. Do Senas in Mozambique, or part of them, have Lemba ancestry? According to Lembas this is the case, although the Senas didn't preserve thair Israelite traditions.
The Sena are major people of Mozambique. Historically the autocephalous Sena groups were situated between the two major centralised kingdoms of Monomotapa (cf. Great Zimbabwe) and of Maravi (in today's Malawi) or between the two cultures of Shona and Nyanja-Chewa. In the 16th century, Portuguese traders and missionaries arrived in the Zambezi valley (stations in Sena, Tete, Zumbo, Quelimane); during the 19th century, Portuguese descendants built even small military states involved in the ongoing slave trade. Finally during the scramble for Africa the weakened Portuguese crown leased this region to British compagnies, which built the railway connections between the Indian Ocean and their colonies, in this case the TZR, Trans-Zambezi-Railway, between Beira and Njassaland/Malawi via Sena. Once Portugal under Salazar during the 1940s had gained control over the region, then it introduced forced cotton growing and forced labor "contracts" with British colonies.
Thus Sena people, who had no opportunities to receive formal education beyond the first classes of primary school, underwent exposure to social and political organisation in the mining centres of neighbouring English speaking colonies and acquired civic awareness through domestic oppression and even massacres. Therefore Sena were very involved in passive resistance to the colonial system and in the active liberation struggle, which led to independence in 1975.
The region suffered soon again very heavily from the global East-West confrontation, from a proxy-war first of Rhodesia and then of apartheid South Africa against the Frontline States, which led finally to an internal civil war between Renamo and Frelimo.
Although Mozambique has a recent record of economic growth, this is not evenly distributed and the Sena especially claim not profiting at all from this development. This and various other forms of social polarisation and division have constituted a major challenge; the country still hasn't implemented a commission along the lines of post-apartheid South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. An ambitious reconstruction process was started in 2006, reaching slowly sensitive zones of Central and Northern Mozambique.
Mozambique 1,710,000 Zimbabwe 134,000
POPULATION ALL COUNTRIES 1,844,000
A possible Semitic origin for ancient Zimbabwe
It is beyond dispute that the Indian Ocean, including much of its African coastline, has been travelled for more than two thousand years. For instance, there is a record of Phoenicians circumnavigating Africa in about 600 BC (Herodotus, c450 BC). This claim is bolstered by their report that the midday sun was on their right while they were sailing westwards – which Herodotus refused to believe – but that would of course be a feature of the southern hemisphere.
Arab traders were certainly visiting Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam before the beginning of the Christian era, and around 60 AD the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea was compiled (in Greek) as a guide to East African, Arab and Indian sailors. Most scholars doubt whether its coverage extended beyond Tanzania, but Peters (1902) argues that the "Fire Islands" mentioned there, could well have been the volcanic Comoro group, because they are placed at the entrance to the "Channel". The description in the Periplus continues further southwards, although names of rivers and harbours can no longer be identified with certainty.
Many centuries ago, there was actually a mass migration from the East Indies to Madagascar – evidenced by the relationship between Malay and a main language of that island; thus, it seems likely that Asian explorers were already well acquainted with the southwest Indian Ocean when the Periplus was written.
In the sixth century AD there was a reference by the Alexandrian merchant Cosmas Indicopleustes to gold acquired by trade with southeast Africa – where "winter occurred during northern hemisphere summer" (McCrindle, 1897). Mas'udi and Ibn Al Wardy confirm that gold was apparently being exported during the ninth and tenth centuries from Sofala (de Maynard and de Courtaille, 1864; Kenyon, 1931; Hall, 1909) – which is an old Arab trading post on the coast, east of Great Zimbabwe.
It is possible that some early seafarers would have made a point of testing river effluent for auriferous deposits – in which case they would probably have detected something in the alluvial mud at the mouths of the Zambezi and Save.
Citing the Yemeni writer Al-Hamdani of 942 AD, Horton (1987) alludes to a policy of deliberately keeping secret that southeast African gold source.
The Lemba tribe in the extreme north of South Africa could well be the remnant of a Semitic community which once occupied Zimbabwe, and which managed to flee when that territory was overrun. They have an oral tradition that their male ancestry originally comprised "white people from over the sea” who came to southeast Africa – from a country which boasted large cities – in order to obtain gold.
The MaLemba refuse to eat pork, rabbit, hare, carrion and scaleless fish, exactly as laid down in Leviticus chapter 11 When preparing meat for consumption, they always kill in the kosher manner by bleeding. The Lembas also have a distinctive New Moon ceremony. A ritual of sacrifice that the Lembas call the "Pesah", which seems similar in many ways to the Jewish Pesach or Passover. A number of words and clan-names used by Lembas must have had a Semitic origin: Sadiki, Hasane, Hamisi, Haji, Bakeri, Sharifo and Saidi (which is one of their words for "master"). Furthermore, some Lembas possess aquiline noses and narrow, non-Bantu lips. (Here, it is relevant to mention that there are also indications of Semitic blood, although more diluted, in Vendas and Karangas – implying that traces of the original Zimbabwean genetic material survive in these other communities too).
The Reverend A.A. Jaques (1931) tells us that Lemba prayers were ended by saying "Amin" - which is of course a Jewish custom as well as a Christian one. However, their liturgy bore absolutely no resemblance to any of the Christian liturgies. On the contrary, Jaques cited what might be a reference to Moses in one of the Lemba prayers. He also mentioned that the Lemba had a taboo about eating with the left hand. Van Warmelo (1966) recorded other examples of Lemba prayers uttered in a completely alien, non-Bantu tongue. Those devotees had absolutely no idea what the words meant – but claimed nevertheless that they represented the language of their forefathers.
The MaLemba claim that their ancestors constructed Great Zimbabwe; in fact, there is evidence that they continued to build in stone even after they had fled across the Limpopo.
During the early 20th century, the Lembas were markedly different in many ways from the other tribes around them. In particular, the Lembas were renowned for their mining and metallurgical skills. For many decades, the Lembas continued to provide neighbouring tribes with metal tools and containers – using copper obtained from deposits in their area.
The Lembas bury their dead in an extended position, in contrast to the "crouched" posture adopted by other Bantu peoples. In that respect, the Lemba custom resembles the one which was followed by the ancient Zimbabweans – whose graves can readily be identified by the presence of gold jewellery
Stone spindle whorls found at Great Zimbabwe indicate that cotton was spun and woven with greater sophistication there, than was displayed in other regions occupied by Bantu tribes. Cotton is of course not indigenous to southern Africa, but a few (now wild) cotton trees nevertheless seem to have been planted near that ancient city.
Two reports cited by le Roux (2003, pp. 46-47) are consistent with the theory that the Lemba (or their ancestors) created the ancient Zimbabwean civilization. William Bolts (1777) had been sent to southeast Africa by the Austrian Habsburg authorities to search for gold; he wrote: "A people called MaLembe resort to [Sofala] at stated periods from a country ... said to be several weeks' journey [away]". Punt (1975) refers to another letter sent to Vienna in 1777 by Bolts which described "a big and important city called Zimbabwe where gold was mined and gold articles were manufactured by a tribe known as the BaLemba". And in a later account compiled by Anderson (1887) after visiting the area, we read: "The natives state that the gold was worked and the forts were built by white men who once occupied this country, and whom they call Abberlomba"; (elsewhere in his book, Anderson spells this "Abberlemba").
The old Lemba language was a variation of Karanga – i.e., the dialect of Shona which is spoken today in the area around Great Zimbabwe and Masvingo. This supports the Lemba tradition that they migrated from that region. If, earlier, there had been a mass immigration from the Middle East to southeast Africa, then it is likely that males would have outnumbered females, such that wives and concubines would have been taken from the local population – with this process continuing for several centuries; indeed, this was reflected in the genetic analyses carried out by Spurdle and Jenkins (1996). It is a well-known fact that children learn their mother’s language more easily than their father’s one, which could explain why that community eventually adopted the Karanga language.
The ancient irrigation systems in the Zoutpansberg in South Africa have been described by Trevor (1930), and may be compared with those found in Nyanga in northeast Zimbabwe. Trevor believes that those in the Zoutpansberg had previously been utilised by the BaVenda people (with whom the MaLemba were closely associated).
Gayre (1972) and Bent (1896) suggested that the male ancestry of the ancient Zimbabweans was derived from the Sabaeans of southern Arabia (adding that the Abyssinians probably took over the gold trade eventually). Many questions still need to be answered, but Sabaeans certainly were wealthy gold miners (Pliny the Elder, c70AD) – although it is not known where their mines were – with substantial commercial interests in East Africa (Gayre, 1972, pp. 20-21, 31; Murdock 1959). They spoke a Semitic language – closely related to Arabic – and followed a Judaistic type of religion (including circumcision) between the fifth and seventh centuries AD. Like the Lembas, they lived by the Moon; [both Gayre (1972, pp. 155, 159) and de Barros (1552) mention a tradition that there was once a moon dynasty in Zimbabwe]. Furthermore, the Sabaeans constructed dams to serve their terraced agriculture, and built elliptical unroofed dry-stone temples at Marib and at Sirwah (Doe, 1971).
The current 'consensus' in academic circles is that the ancient Zimbabwean civilization was created by Shona-speaking people – based on the fact that in recent decades nothing whatsoever has been published to support the alternative (Semitic-based) theory. However, after the identification – in the late 1990s – of Jewish DNA in the Lembas, it is now appropriate to reopen the debate.
Who Are Lembas?
Recent genetic analyses have established a possible Middle-Eastern,Semitic origin for a portion of the Lemba population. The name "Lemba" may originate in chilemba, a Swahili wordfor turbans worn by East Africans or lembi a Bantu word meaning "non-African" or "respected foreigner".
In the Zoutpansberg region in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Lemba were so highly esteemed for their mining and metalwork skills that surrounding tribes regarded them as an almost alien (but very welcome) community.
Mendez et al. (2011) observed that a moderately high frequency of the studied Lemba samplescarried Y-DNA Haplogroup T, which is considered to be of Near Eastern origin. However, the Lemba T carriersbelonged exclusively to T1b*, which is different from the Jews of Near East and Africa but share a similar estimateexpansion time with the T1* Somalis.
The Great Zimbabwe Synagogue
The Lemba community of Zimbabwe has taken the first steps to build a synagogue, an amazing "first" for a community that traces its origins back to ancient Jews. They have the land, donated labor, and some building materials, and now are in great need of funds to proceed with this historic initiative.
Kulanu has formed a supportive partnership with the Lemba of Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in the southern part of Africa, to build the synagogue.
The location of the land on which the synagogue will be built, a donated property in the
rural village of Mapakomhere, about 350 kilometers from the capital Harare, is particularly
significant. The synagogue will be called The Great Zimbabwe Synagogue, as it is close to the site of The Great Zimbabwe, a famous world-heritage archaeological site. Lemba oral tradition says the site was built by Lemba residents of the area.
The synagogue is crucial to the preservation of an ancient Jewish community weakened by
harassment that demanded secrecy in their religious practices, proselytizing by Christians and Muslims, and inroads of modernization into traditional village life.
Since a nationwide gathering of the Zimbabwe Lemba Cultural Association in 1994, the decision was made to join the world of mainstream Judaism. Kulanu believes that the construction of the Great Zimbabwe Synagogue will stand as a powerful symbol that will lead to a resurgence in Jewish practice and learning among many Lemba communities throughout Zimbabwe.
Kulanu has agreed to partner with the Lemba to preserve their traditions and to join the mainstream Jewish world.
According to the oral history of the Lemba, they had male ancestors who were Jews who left Judea about 2,500 years ago and settled in a place called Senna, later migrating into East Africa.
Possible Lemba migration to southern Africa
After entering Africa, the tribe is said to have split off into two groups, with one staying in Ethiopia, and the other traveling farther south, along the east coast. The Lemba claim this second group settled in Tanzania and Kenya, and built what was referred to as “Sena II.” Others were said to have settled in Malawi, where descendants reside today. Some settled in Mozambique, and eventually migrated to South Africa and Zimbabwe, where they claim to have constructed or helped construct the “great enclosure.”
The Lemba. A lost tribe of Israel in Southern Africa
The Lemba are scattered all over South Africa and they are directly related to the Varemba in Zimbabwe and the Mwenye in Mozambique and elsewhere.
The Lemba's enthusiasm for sacred hills, animal sacrifice, ritual slaughtering of animals, food taboes, their circumcision rites and endogamy - all seemed to suggest a Semitic influence or resemblances, imbedded in an African culture.
The oldest, recorded oral tradition of origin of the Lemba, also known as, musavi (buyer/trader), nyakuwana (the man who finds the things which are bought), or mulungu (white man or the man from the north) holds that their Israelite ancestors came by boat to Africa as traders, from a remote place, a city called Sena, on the other side of the Phusela. They do not know where or what 'Phusela' was, but in Africa , they erected trading posts at different places, and each time some of their people were left behind to take charge. They were in search of gold and after each trading expedition they went back to their country by sea. They kept themselves separate from the local peoples, but after a war broke out in their country they, (the savi [merchants]) could not return. They did not bring their wives along and now had to take wives from the local peoples ( w/vhazendji , 'heathens') - Rozwi, Karanga, Zezuru and Govera tribes.
Parfitt investigated and indeed found a ancient city named Sena, at the end of the wadi Hadramaut, just before the valley turns away towards the sea. It was situated on the trade route, from the sea to Terim. The valley that leads from Sena in the eastern Hadramaut to an old port on the Yemini coast called Sayhut, is the Wadi al-Masilah. Parfitt believes that Masilah may be the 'Phusela' of Lemba oral tradition.
Further investigation showed that some of the clan and sub-clan names of the Lemba such as Hadzhi, Hamisi, Bakali, Sadiki and Seremane correlate with commonplace names in the eastern Hadramaut. Not one of them had the means to ascertain in advance, whether their clan names correlated with the commonplace names in the Hadramaut. One conclusion is that their oral traditions are very old.
One informant in Soweto remembered that his grandfather told him that they originally had come from a place, called Sena 'somewhere south of Jericho '. A place called 'Sena', 'south of Jericho ' can not be found on ancient maps of Israel or Moab , but surprisingly, a city called 'Lemba' is indicated. It was also found that the historian Josephus referred to this city of 'Lemba' on more than one occassion.
The Lemba could not remember the name of their country but they know they were masters of iron and copper smelting and working. In their country they made pots, grew and wove cotton and were masters of timber work, because they had to build their own ships for their maritime undertakings and they have the tradition that they were very much involved in the building of Great Zimbabwe.
Only some of the most salient concurrences will briefly be mentioned here: One of the most important dietary laws of the Lemba is that they have to separate themselves, the'chosen people' from the vhasendzhi or 'heathen, because the latter are uncircumcised and are the 'eaters of dead meat'. They are not allowed to eat pork or the food of the gentiles. Do do not mix meat and milk. Burial practices correspond remarkable with that of early Israel . Repeating names of ancestors - reminds one of the creed of the Israelite clans which was repeated at important events.
According to him, Judaism was imposed on the sities of ancient Moab by Alexander Janneus in c. 103-76 BC of which Lemba was one (Ant XIII). Whether this city has anything to do with the Lemba people here in Southen Africa, one would never know. And elsewhere Josephus refers to a group of priests and Levites who fled from Palestine into Egypt at the persecutions of Anthiochus IV Epiphanus almost a hundred years earlier, in 175-163 BC and who most probably established a kind of Judaistic influence in the north of Africa . Nothing could have stopped some of these priestly groups from migrating further southwards into Africa .
I compare the Lemba with early Israel (1250-1000 BC), since: (I) their communities function according to a segmented clan system without a common leader; (ii) this period is interesting for the study of oral cultures; and (iii) they regard themselves as 'children of Abraham' who at one stage or another stage came to Africa and because they are available.
The Lemba came from Sena
NARRATOR: Parfitt may uncover more clues to the Lemba's origins if he can find Sena. Did Jewish populations live there in the past? Do today's inhabitants have any genetic similarities to the Lemba or the Cohanim? His next stop is the village of Sintamule to visit a local expert on Lemba history, William Masala.
TUDOR PARFITT: William, what proof is there that the Sena that you talk of, the people of Sena that you talk of, are connected in any way with the people of Israel?
WILLIAM MASALA: It's in the Bible.
TUTOR PARFITT: In the Bible? Where?
WILLIAM MASALA: Nehemiah 7, verse 38.
TUDOR PARFITT: This is talking about the children of Israel coming back from Babylon, is that right?
WILLIAM MASALA: That's right, yes.
TUDOR PARFITT: And there is a reference to Sena there?
WILLAIM MASALA: Yes, yes, in the Bible. "The children of Sena, 3,930."
TUDOR PARFITT: Now, you talk about Sena. Where is - where is Sena?
WILLIAM MASALA: This book tells us that Sena is in Jericho.
TUDOR PARFITT: In Jericho, in Israel - in Palestine actually, it's part of the Palestine authority.
WILLIAM MASALA: Yes. Jericho, near Jerusalem.
NARRATOR: Based on his biblical dictionary, William Masala places Sena near Jerusalem. But the Lemba oral tradition is much less specific.
TUDOR PARFITT: Even at the beginning of Islam there were Jews in Arabia. There are references in the Islamic texts of Jews living here at the time of Mohammed. In this area there was a Jewish kingdom and the legendary king, Dhu Nuwas, who fought against the Ethiopians and died driving his charger into the Red Sea. So the whole place is redolent with Jewish history.
NARRATOR: The following day, Parfitt continues on to what he hopes will be the legendary homeland of the Lemba - Sena. Today Sena is dusty and dry - not the sort of place one would think of as paradise. But according to local legend, the city once was lush and teeming with life - until its great stone dam cracked, leaving the town without proper irrigation. About a thousand years ago, people began to leave in great numbers - including, perhaps, the Lemba.
Black-Jewish Relations: The Black Jewish or Hebrew Israelite Community
This essay attempts to bear witness to true diversity that exists within the Jewish world. Though the focus is necessarily on those communities that I am most family with, I attempt to give a broader insight and offer some analysis of the unique dynamics that are at work. It is also important to remember that not all of these groups accept the terms used to describe them. Some, in fact, reject the term "Jew" precisely because it connotes, in the minds of most people, a white ethnic group. Therefore, the use of this appellation could be misinterpreted as a desire to be white or a denial of African heritage. In either case, its application could be regarded as an affront by some. The groups who feel this way prefer the term Hebrew or Israelite because they believe it avoids a connection with "whiteness," or conversely, implies a connection with "blackness." It is with these two caveats concerning "race" that I use the term Jew as a de-racialized description of people who are neither Christian nor Muslim but who profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No offense is intended by my choice of terms and I hope that none will be taken. I offer a fuller exploration of the "racial question" in Judaism elsewhere on this homepage. The information that follows comes from my dissertation research at Columbia University and from my personal knowledge as a rabbi in one of the oldest and largest communities of Black Jews in America.
Estimates for the total number of Black Jews in America range from 40,000, reported by the Encyclopedia of Black America, to 500,000 as stated in a feature story about Black Jews in Ascent magazine. Unfortunately, none of the sources reveal how they arrived at their figures.
The problem of determining a reliable estimate of the number of Black Jews in America is made more complicated by the difficulty of determining who is a "Black Jew." For instance, Arthur Huff Fauset in his pioneering study, Black Gods of the Metropolis, used a Philadelphia-based group called the "Church of God" as the basis for a chapter about "Black Jews." If one simply took an affinity with the Old Testament and the observance of a few customs as a definition of being Jewish, as do Fauset and others, then one's figures could be quite high; though very inaccurate because they would count as Black Jews segments of what is usually considered the Black Church.
On the other hand, if one used Orthodox Jewish Law, called "Halackah," as the basis for defining who is a Jew, one would have to know the religion of the mother of each person; because, by this law, one cannot decide to be a Jew unless one's mother is a Jew. If the person or group claimed to have converted to Judaism, then one would have to know if they underwent certain rituals that involve the taking of special baths, (mikvot) and in the case of a man, the symbolic pricking of his penis.
Halakhic Law offers a very precise definition of who is a Jew. However, since fewer than ten percent of the 5.3 million white Jews in America observe Orthodox Jewish Law, this standard cannot be applied to Black Jews, nor could I verify baths or pricked penises if I wanted to. In addition, I am aware of a number of African American individuals and one New Jersey congregation that have undergone formal conversion only to find that the "legitimacy" of their conversion was not universally accepted.
Since the particular Halakhic ceremony described above is not found in the Torah, nor is it referred to in any of the biblical instances where people joined the Hebrew faith, (Ruth for example), we do not believe that it has the weight of law. Also, we feel that it denies the concept of divine intervention and selection referred to in Isaiah 11:11-12 and Jeremiah 3:14. In these passages the Hebrew prophets state that God will be responsible for the gathering of His people which He shall choose from the "four corners of the earth" and the from "islands of the sea." This process is described as a selection of individuals rather than of groups, "I will take you one from a city, and two from a family, I will bring you to Zion." The fact that Orthodox rabbis hold that they are the sole arbiters of deciding who is a Jew negates the existence or exercise of a divine will that is not channeled through them first. In contrast, the ceremony we use serves as a public acknowledgment of a spiritual transformation that has already taken place within the individual.
Beyond this type of problem, however, there are a number of political reservations that we hold regarding the way that people are "accepted" into Judaism. The Halakhic procedures require recognition of and acquiescence to Orthodox authority. Further, the Halakhic standard conflates membership in a religion (a belief system or way of life accepted on faith) with acceptance or approval of a particular religious body. An appropriate analogy, that comes very close to describing our situation, is that the Pope or Catholic Church can decide who is a Catholic but, he can not decide who is a Christian. [The fact that some have tried notwithstanding.] Similarly, various boards or councils may decide who is an "Orthodox Jew" for instance but, they can not presume to act as God in judging the content of a person's heart or the sincerity of one's faith.
Judaism, as many of us understand and practice it, is not a race. If it were, then no one could join it or leave it without being genetically altered. Judaism is a creed; a living culture with an ancient history. Those who practice it belong to communities that often have unique traditions. Though it may not appear as such, most Jews belong to definable communities which have traditions that come out of their own histories. Sadly, some of the more influential communities attempt to exercise a hegemony over the others. Black Jews generally reject the presumptive authority of such groups--though they accept many of their traditions and interpretations on other matters. Because of this, Black Jews exist on the margins of Jewish society though well within the pale of principled disagreement.
Rather than inventing an arbitrary definition or imposing a contested definition of Judaism onto the Black Jewish community, I have chosen instead to discuss those groups that describe themselves as either Black Jews, Hebrews, or Israelites. This approach will allow the reader to understand how they, the subjects of this study, define Judaism and practice it. In this regard, I have found that a variety of very interesting, complex, and still evolving notions of Judaism exist. It is my goal to analyze the major theological, cultural, and political views that circulate within these congregations in order to understand how they are informed by issues of race, religion, and historical circumstances.
Rabbi W.A. Matthew -- The Black Jews of Harlem
My background and most of my data come from working with those congregations that derive from the late Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew (1892-1973). Rabbi Matthew founded the Commandment Keepers Congregation in Harlem, New York in 1919. He trained and ordained many of the rabbis who later founded synagogues in various places of the United States and the Caribbean. Rabbi Matthew, it turns out, was a close associate of Rabbi Arnold J. Ford who was the musical director of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) which was organized by Marcus Garvey in 1911.
The emergence of Judaism among people of African descent in the first half of this century was made possible by a combination of the following factors: (1) A strong religious tradition in the background of the person who became Jewish that embodied Jewish practices from an early but unclear source. When interviewed, many of the older members of this community recall memories of their parents observing certain dietary laws, such as abstaining from pork or salting their meat. Others recall traditions related to observing the Sabbath or festivals such as Passover and Sukkot. In most cases these practices were fragmentary and observed by people who simultaneously practiced Christianity.
The possible origins of these Hebraic traditions could be traced to West Africa were a number of tribes have customs so similar to Judaism that an ancient connection or maybe even descent from one of the "ten lost tribes" is believed. Other possibilities for these well-documented practices are through association with Jewish slave owners and merchants in the Caribbean and North America. In this case, the number of Jewish slave owners is known to have been small and proselytizing by Jews was not common. Yet, these Jews can not be excluded as one possible source either through isolated conversions, intermarriage, or providing an opportunity for observation.
Many African Americans who practice Judaism today maintain that they have always had a close affinity with the Hebrews of the Old Testament. This is true whether or not they recall particular rites that remind them of the Jewish traditions they now follow. Scholars such as Albert Raboteau have described in books such as Slave Religion that the biblical struggles of the Hebrew people--particularly their slavery and exodus from Egypt--bore a strong similarity to the conditions of African slaves and was therefore of special importance to them. This close identification with the biblical Hebrews is clearly seen in the lyrics of gospel songs such as "Go Down Moses" and remains a favorite theme in the sermons of black clergy today.
What all this proves is that there was a foundation, be it psychological , spiritual, or historical, that made some black people receptive to the direct appeal to Judaism that Rabbi Matthew and others made to them in this century. If black people were fertile ground for the harbingers of Judaism, then the philosophy of Marcus Garvey was the seed that helped to bring it to fruition. Put most simply, Garvey's message was one of Black Nationalism and Pan Africanism. His goal was to instill pride in a people who were being humiliated through institutionalized racism and cultural bigotry. Garvey and Matthew attempted to challenge old stereotypes that either minimized a black presence in history or the bible, or, that completely excised black people from these texts. They argued that such distortions and omissions were harmful to the self-image that many black people had of themselves. They debunked these myths by extolling the contributions that black people made to the development of human civilization. To some extent this meant focusing on the achievements of African societies such as Egypt and Ethiopia in highly rhetorical and romantic way. It also meant attacking the false image that all the people in the bible looked like Europeans. They pointed out that by normative standards the dark hues of the ancient Hebrews would cause them to be classified as black in today's world. This was a revelation to thousands of black people who had previously accepted the all white depictions without question.
Rabbi Ford and Rabbi Matthew took Garvey's philosophy one step further. They reasoned that if many of the ancient Hebrews were black, then Judaism was as much a part of their cultural and religious heritage as is Christianity. In their hearts and minds they were not converting to Judaism, they were reclaiming part of their legacy. This fit very neatly with the biblical prophecies that spoke of the Israelites being scattered all over the world, being carried in slave ships to distant lands, and of being forced to worship alien Gods. (Deut 28)
Rabbi Matthew found himself in the peculiar position of having to both justify his small following of black Jews in Harlem, and also to explain the presence of so many white Jews. His position on this subject went through various stages. He always maintained that the "original Jews" were black people-or at least not European; however, he did not deny the existence or legitimacy of white Jews. In fact, as his services, synagogues, and attire show, he deferred to orthodox conventions on many matters. For example, he maintained separate setting for men and women, he used a standard siddur (prayer book) to conduct his services, worshippers wore tallitzim and kippot (prayer shawls and yarmulkes), they affixed mezuzot, wore tefillin, used standard texts in their Hebrew and rabbinic schools and read from a Sefer Torah.
Rabbi Matthew believed that although the "original Jews" were black people, white Jews had kept and preserved Judaism over the centuries. Since we, black Jews, were just "returning" to Judaism it was necessary for us to look to white Jews on certain matters--particularly on post-biblical and rabbinic holidays such as Hanukkah which could not be found in the Torah. However, it is important to note that Rabbi Matthew felt free to disagree on matters where he had a strong objection. He also recognized that since many customs, songs, and foods were of European origin, that he had the right to introduce some African, Caribbean, and American traditions into his community. Of course, his right to do this was often challenged, sometimes by Jews who were "Americanizing" Judaism themselves. Rabbi Matthew was constantly aware of apparent double standards within Judaism. After decades of trying to find common ground with white Jews by speaking at white synagogues around the county and at B'nai Brith lodges internationally, and after repeated attempts to join the New York Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Matthew concluded that black Jews would never be fully accepted by white Jews and certainly not if they insisted on maintaining a black identity and independent congregations. Since his death in 1973, there has been virtually no dialog between white and black Jews in America.
Brief Description of Other Communities
Other Israelite sects that exist within the United States but are not affiliated with the community founded by Rabbi Matthew are: The Church of God, founded by Prophet Cherry in Philadelphia; the Church of God, founded by Elder William S. Crowdy in Kansas in 1896; the Nation of Yahweh, a black nationalist group founded by Yahweh Ben Yahweh in Florida; the Kingdom of God, founded by Ben Ammi Carter in Chicago in the 1960s (this group is now in Israel); Rastafarians, who originated in Jamaica in 1935 (today this group is most known for creating Reggae music, but their religious beliefs have caused some to associate them with Judaism; the Nubian Islamic Hebrews, formerly located in Brooklyn, New York who have a blend of Islamic, Judaic, and black nationalist beliefs; and the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge, also known as the Twelve Tribes, a paramilitary group located in Harlem [Ed: The Church 12 Tribes of Israel is not associated with the ICPUK in any way]. These groups differ widely on issues of religious practice, cultural dress, and political views. There is no umbrella organization that unites them, but most consider themselves to be Black Jews, Hebrews, or Israelites.
Black Jews seek unity, acceptance in France
By Cynthia Weisfield
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — I’m going to share some memories with you. One took place in1968, one in 1974; both were in different cities, but both involved a request by a black Jew to take part in synagogue-sponsored activities: services and a social event. In both cases, there was much discussion before he was let in. Women clutched their purses a little closer to their bodies. Men stiffened. The black man generally sat alone. Full disclosure: I did try to make conversation at the social event, but the gentleman was as nervous as I. In each instance, when the man left, there was an audible sigh of relief. My emotions were mixed, but they circled around feeling unsettled.
The above should not really be surprising. We all thought then of Jews as being white Ashkenazi, right? Or maybe white Sephardic. Perhaps we’d give a thought to the Moroccan or Yemeni Jews who were air-lifted into Israel in the ‘forties and ‘fifties. But black Jews?
All of that was about B.K.E., Before Kulanu Era. Now we – that is, Jews everywhere — know that there are black Jews, Indian Jews, Chinese Jews, Jews around the world of all stripes and nationalities. We embrace them. Or do we?
French black Jews would say otherwise. They speak about feeling the discomfort in French mainstream synagogues. Of seeing astonishment, sometimes incomprehension on the faces of their white coreligionists. Sometimes there’s a feeling of rejection, of “mockery.”
Enter Nduwa Guershon of Paris. Nduwa was a Congolese who converted to Judaism at age 28. He is the leader of a group of black Jews, the FJN, Fraternité Judéo-Noir or Jewish-Black Fraternity, which he founded in 2007. FJN was formed not as a statement of separation but to become another component of Judaism along with Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews.
Theirs is a group where all Jews are welcome. To emphasize the point, this is a committed group of Orthodox Jews who are seeking full meshing with the “customary” Ashkenazic/Sephardic communities while maintaining their own presence. In that sense, they are just participating in the time-honored Jewish practice of forming synagogues, for whatever reason. They do have rabbis coming from Israel and London to assist.
Sidney Davis, a Master’s Degree student in Jewish Studies at Hebrew College in Newton Center, MA, and a black Jew, has corresponded with Nduwa. Davis puts the case eloquently.
Nduwa Edouard Guershon seeks to raise the consciousness as well as the conscience of the broader Jewish community to the plight of the black Jewish community in France and the pan African Jewish community at large. He seeks to do thiswithin the context of Judaism’s ethical ideal of social justice by forging alliances with Jews of goodwill everywhere in addressing racism and anti-Semitism. His organizing effort connected with the Fraternité Judéo Noire is an effort to bring African Jews out of the religious and social isolation that they have experienced historically as the result of their perception as the “ultimate other” and to present them alongside the rest of the diverse Jewish community as one people.
There are now 170-250 FJN members of whom 50 are children; there is no Sunday school as yet. Although some members still attend established synagogues, the group typically meets at members’ homes.
It is interesting to take a moment to consider why there is a certain prejudice against blacks in Judaism. Guershon reasons that much of this prejudice stems from the story of Ham, who saw his father, Noah, naked. The descendants of Ham were said to be black because of their sins — in reality, the sin of their father.
Laurence Thomas, a member of FJN who flies between his homes in Paris and Syracuse, NY, where he is a professor at Syracuse University, has found anti-black biases in religious texts. Yet as he points out in his article “Social Justice and Jews” on the FJN Web site: “The Torah does not designate skin color as even a remote indication of who counts as a Jew. It is time that we stop doing so.”
There is no absolute theory about why blacks are not fully accepted as Jews. The Torah tells us that Moses married an Ethiopian or Kushite woman. That has been interpreted by Nduwa as Hashem frowning on discrimination.We also remember that the Queen of Sheba was black and well regarded by King Solomon.
The French have a longstanding history of anti-Semitism which, although quiescent for many years, is never far from the surface. They are still debating the Dreyfus Affair. The anti-Semitic “comic” Dieudonné has a large following. An increase in Muslim population and influence has cracked the quiet, as it has throughout Europe. The American Jewish Congress has reported an increase in attacks on Jews.
Shirli Sitbon, who writes in the Paris-Chronicler, reports on a rising tide of gang warfare against Jews in mixed ethnic neighborhoods.
Young men such as Rudy Haddad and Mathieu Roumi were beaten and tortured; Ilan Halimi died after his torture of three weeks’ duration. French Jews are worried. Indeed, my husband and I spoke with a Parisian couple who said that they figured they would have to emigrate to the United States at some point.
In this French cultural context, FJN efforts are courageous. Not only are they reaching out to mainstream Jews, who themselves may be afraid, but they are vocal in their various activities. A recent fundraising concert was held at l’Espace Rachi, a major venue in Paris.
They have a vibrant Web site (fjn-123.fr) that also has an English section) where they speak out vociferously on all manner of topics related to Judaism. They participate actively in demonstrations related to Israel, such as demanding the release of Gilad Shalit.
Despite the obstacles, Nduwa has great hopes. “We think…that we are in a favorable juncture where one can reconstruct a certain united community around important points such as questions linked to the Torah, study and life together,” he said. He realizes that it’s a long road, but he is committed to the journey of making all Jews comfortable with each other.
Meet a Non-Lemba Bantu Jew
We entered Africa to live with other Semites, Hamites and Kushites, descendants of our great-grandfather Noah. Some of us went to Yemen and lived with Arabs who influenced us, as did the Koi and San later on, but we kept very Jewish and discernible until we reached our southern African destination along the eastern coastline of Africa. This movement, circa 2500 years ago, was later nicknamed the Bantu migrations. Today we are known as Bantus and all too often "gentiles," too. This is misunderstanding as to our actual identity. About 70 percent to 80 percent of southern Bantus are not gentiles, nor are we simply Hamitic-Pygmy admixtures producing Negroes, as current history may purport. Our oral traditions suggest that we are Jewish, with songs like “Jerusalema” and places like "Dombo Ra Mwari /Nwali" ("Rock of God") in the Epworth district, as outstanding features and proof of our spiritual past, let alone our bloodlines. Yes, we have mixed with many people and nations, but we have remained basically dark / black in complexion throughout the ages.
Over 70 years ago Zimbabwean elders started tracing our origins, and Great Zimbabwe seemed a logical place to start. This search led to my own research and, like most looking for our true history, I arrived at the same conclusion. We are the 12 tribes of Yisrael in their entirety, descendants of Avraham, Isaac and Yakov, who built a temple Dzimba dze ma bge (Houses of Rocks) out of a rock called "Bgwe" and then around it a trading center -- very Jewish, huh?
We are Jews. Witness this by what we do and how we live, as the Good Book suggests, and not by what we look like – besides, original Jews were dark and still are, to this there can be no mistake. We believe we are the living, breathing Torah and have kept Torah in our hearts. “Torah” in Shona (the main Zimbabwean language) translates as "take" or Tolah in Zulu/Xhosa, and was "given" on Mt. Sinai to be "taken" by the Yisralites. This pattern of similarities permeates Bantu culture and languages, which are merely offshoots of original Hebrew. We still pay "lobola" to the parents of a bride, as Isaac and Yakov did by working their fields for seven years, or some form of labor and gifts, but now cows as a sign of wealth are acceptable. Jews resident in Yisrael and Europe have forgotten its practice. We keep one day of the week sacred called "Tshisi" in Zimbabwe. Many of us have forgotten all the old ways mainly due to colonization, Diaspora and Christian missionary education that slowly but surely has eradicated our identity and knowledge of it, so once again it is in great jeopardy.
However, 70 years ago we started to rekindle our culture and with it its inseparable religion. Congregation Betel was formed and is now led by Rabbi Cohen Maguwazah from our Rusape Synagogue as head rabbi of southern African Jews. We now have branches in South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and are associated with Betel in America. We are just black Jews, now called Bantus, and we are finding the truth about who we are and how we ended up south of the equator. Generally speaking, a negative myth and mistaken identity have plagued Jews throughout our history. That is why we left Palestine in the first place and lived in Diaspora for centuries. Our failure to show objects as our "Almighty" got Romans and Greeks to regard us as pagan or heathen, yet they are the gentiles. Later Arabs called us kifers (nonbelievers) because they could not understand how we knew of blood separation in animal slaughter (kosher killing) if we hadn’t read their "book," the Koran, that has echoes of our Torah which for us is written in our hearts.
We should never underestimate the power of the "Almighty." Our tribe is much bigger than we think. There aren’t hundreds of thousands of Jews in Africa, but millions. And millions more in India and China, etc. I have relatives and friends from the Lemba tribe and we have always known that not all Bantu are Israelite but many more than just the Lemba are Jews. The Lemba are just one major group of Jews that settled in southern Africa, but like our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia, it is not just one small group of people; a much larger picture can be drawn of our entire inheritance.
I foresee Judaism coming alive in Africa and India in the new century. Many of these new Jews will want to immigrate to the two main Jewish population centers, Israel and America. But many will remain in their Third World countries forming Jewish communities the likes of which we have not seen in millennia. Large new Jewish centers could sprout up around the world at any time. The experts who put together the population projections did not consider the possibility of millions of Jews in East India in what could be a virtual Jewish state there later in this century. They did not foresee countless African Jews in the new century, either. But we may be witnessing the beginnings of this phenomenon now with the Abayudaya Jews in Uganda who already live totally Jewish lives. Let us also consider the Lemba in South Africa who are starting to explore their ancient, lost, recently rediscovered Judaism.
Thousands Flock to Jerusalem for Traditional Festival of Sigd
Last week several thousand Ethiopian Jews gathered in Jerusalem for a celebration of the traditional holiday of Sigd.
The holiday of Sigd was a fundamental element of the Jewish experience in Ethiopia. The holiday that falls on the 29th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, exactly 50 days after Yom Kippur (similar to the 50-day cycle of the days of the Omer preceding the giving of the Torah), is dedicated to fasting and prayer, evoking the connection to Jerusalem and the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people.
According to Avraham Negousi, Director of the Ethiopian immigrant organization, South Wing to Zion, the Sigd celebration helped the Jewish community in the faraway exile of Ethiopia maintain their yearning to return to Zion.
The source of the holiday is in the book of Nehemiah when the exiled Jews prayed“ toward Jerusalem. The Ethiopian Jews prayed together 'Next year in Jerusalem'. The holiday was about connecting to the receiving of the Torah and the promise that one day we will reach Jerusalem," recalled Negousi.
In Ethiopia, Jews, while still fasting, set out during the morning hours of the day on a march to the peak of a nearby mountaintop, led by their spiritual leaders, Kessim, and carrying the traditional torah scrolls. Continued prayer and worship accompanied the ascent to the mountaintop where selected readings from the Torah were read in the language of Gaaz and then translated into the vernacular Amharit. In the afternoon the participants would descend to local villages where the fast was broken with joyous meals amidst festive dancing celebrations.
Last week's Sigd festivities were held in Jerusalem, where thousands of Israeli Ethiopian Jews gathered from across the country at the Armon Hanatziv promenade overlooking the Temple Mount. In attendance at the event were government representatives, Ethiopian community leaders and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who commended the Ethiopian Jews' dedication to upholding their traditions. "It is amazing that after the long journey you made from Ethiopia to Jerusalem, you did not leave behind this glorious tradition," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Tzipi Livni.
Although the nature of the celebrations has changed since their arrival in Israel, Ethiopian leaders continue to maintain the importance of the Sigd holiday. "Once we came here we decided to continue this holiday on top of East Talpiot, toward the western wall, praying and thanking G-d for fulfilling his promise, for realizing our dream and giving us the opportunity to be in Jerusalem and also to pray for those left behind in Ethiopia to come and join us," Negousi stated.
Our dream is to be in the state of Israel and Jerusalem. Today more than 100,000 “Ethiopian Jews are proud citizens of Israel, however the Aliyah of Ethiopian Jewry is not completed. There are still 20,000 Jews in Ethiopia waiting to come to Israel to rejoin their brothers, parents and families," Negousi said, adding, "The government has decided to bring them to Israel by the end of 2007, but there is a government quota of only 300 a month. An agreement has been made to double the number to 600, but sadly this has not yet been implemented."
Negousi denied claims that many of those awaiting immigration to Israel are not halachically Jewish. "Rav Shlomo Amar visited in Ethiopia and declared that they are Jews without a doubt and they must be brought to Israel. Every Jewish community has passed through a different historical process. The Ethiopian Jewish community also went through difficulties including persecution and drought," Negousi explained.
Ethiopian leaders, including Negousi, remain optimistic about the future of their people among their Israeli peers. "Most of my community comes from remote areas so it is not easy for them to integrate into modern society and urbanization, but our community is doing well, we are going in the right direction," stated Negousi.
For Negousi the contemporary Sigd festivities resonate with deep spiritual meaning and offer an opportunity to express his appreciation that the dream of his people of returning to Zion has been realized. "Our fathers and grandfathers told us that we will go to Jerusalem. As a child I remember being told that the Prophets say that all the Jews will be returned to the Land of Israel. We love Israel and we love Jerusalem. Once a year thousands come to Jerusalem to say thank you," said Negousi.
The name Biafra like that of Africa can be traced back to the North African Moorish tribe of Banu-Ifran. Banu Ifran is a tribal name meaning the Children of Ephraim and refers to descent from the Israelite Tribe of Ephraim and the House of Joseph. Over 2,000 years ago the Banu Ifran established an Ephraimite Kingdom in what is now known as Oufrane, Morocco. There they were led by an Ephraimite King named Abraham Ephrati. The Ephrati and Afriat families found among present day Moroccan Jews claim descent from within the Ephraimite Kingdom.
Those among the Banu-Ifran who settled in Mauritania became known as the Moorish Bafur tribes. In present day Mauritania they are more specifically referred to as the Haratin and the Imraugen. The Bafur tribes were also among the founders of the ancient Moorish Kingdoms of Mali, Ghana and Songhai. In this regard the designation Bafur was inclusive of all the Mande tribes of which the most prominent were the Mandingo. In Mali the founding Bafur were Malinke, while in Ghana they were called the Soninke. The Soninke were also influential in the great expansion of the Songhai Empire. The name Mande is Aramaic in origin and means knowledge or wisdom.
The Bafur Moors were also known by the variant Biafar. To this day there exists a tribe living in Guinea-Bissau who are called by the tribal names of Biafar and Biafada. The Biafar are almost exclusively Muslim and live side by side with their neighbors the Mandingo.
During the 10th Century Banu-Ifran refugees fleeing North Africa under the leadership of Abu Yazid arrived in the areas of present day Nigeria and founded the 7 Hausa States. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries the Bafur or Biafran Moors of the Songhai Empire moved eastward and reinforced Moorish ruling authority among the Hausa. They also established authority in Northern Benin. To this day 25% of the population of Benin is Muslim and its a fact that the Islamic presence in Benin is largely due to the expansion and influence of Songhai and its Moorish Bafur(Biafran) tribes.
There can be no question that a significant amount of affluent Bafur (Biafran) tribesmen reached Igboland via Benin during the years in which the Songhai Empire was actively impacting upon the people of Benin. However Moorish Bafur(Biafran) influence in Southeastern Nigeria must have first begun around the time the Banu-Ifran refugees first reached Northern Nigeria and founded the Hausa States during the 10th century and continued through the influence and expansions of the Malian Empire.
In 1930, Dr. Allen Godbey documented the presence of Moorish Ephraimites in Yorubaland. The Bene-Ephraim(Banu-Ifran) as they called themselves maintained memories of an ancient migration that took them from Morocco and Mali(Timbuktu) and into Southern Nigeria.
Rudolph Windsor in his book:From Babylon to Timbuktu (pp.131) discusses the Bene-Ephraim who lived among the Yoruba in the Ondo District of Yorubaland.
There are Black Jews in Southern Nigeria who are called the "EMO YO QUAIM" or "Strange People" by the native Africans but these Black Jews call themselves by the Hebrew name "B'nai Ephraim" or "Sons of Ephraim". These Jews claim that their ancestors immigrated from Morocco,a fact which Godbey says is supported by their language, a mixture of Maghrebi Arabic and local Negro speech....Nevertheless, most of their language is similar to the Black Yorubas around them...'
Among the Igbo, the Biafrans became an influential and respected class of nobles whose authority was demonstrated by the wearing of the Red Fez. The Red Fez was a status ad cultural symbol reflecting their earlier Moorish origins in Morocco and Mali. The Moorish Biafrans also developed and initiated the respected Kolanut Ceremonies. Upon returning to Mali they introduced the sacredness of the Kolanut which is to this day highly valued and revered.
The Kolanut practices of the Igbo were developed by the original Biafrans who came from Mali the same people who ruled by the authority of the Red Fez.
Many of the original Biafrans (Ephraimites) settled in what is now known as the Imo State. In 1993, Chima Onyeulo of the Imo State became the first Igbo to petition the Israeli Government for recognition of the Israelite origins of the Igbo as a means of accessing entry under the Law of Return. Chima's petition was presented with evidences of the Ephraimite origins of the Igbo and the history of their migration through Morocco and Mali. Interestingly Chima married an Israeli Jew of North African origins from Libya.
Chief Rabbi Confirm Ebos Jews and Hebrews as lost Tribe of Ephraim
Who can deny the Israelite origin of many Africans?
“We feel safe then, in formulating our first conclusion:–Somewhere in the dim past, a wave, or more probably a series of waves, of Hebraic influence swept over Negro Africa, leaving unmistakable traces among the various tribes, where they have endured even to the present day.”
Joseph J. Williams
HEBREWISMS OF WEST AFRICA, p. 319
“In the year 65 BC the Roman armies under General Pompey captured Jerusalem. In 70 AD, General Vespasian and his son Titus put an end to the Jewish state, with a great slaughter…many outrages and atrocities were committed against the residue of the people. During the period from Pompey to Julius, it has been estimated that over 1,000,000 Jews fled into Africa, fleeing from Roman persecution and slavery. The slave markets were full of black Jewish slaves.”
“Black Americans now are in position as never before in modern history to rediscover, and reclaim if they wish, a heritage which has profoundly influenced world history and mankind: the Hebrew heritage of Black Africa.”
-Steven Jacobs, European Jewish historian
Author of? The Hebrew Heritage of Black Africa: Fully Documented
TRIBAL CUSTOMS OF WEST AFRICA BY J. WILLIAMS
Hebrewisms were not just limited to the Ashanti in Jamaica but were plentiful in the land from which they came: Africa. Williams notes the following irrefutable evidence of Hebrewisms in Africa:
• The Floggings, the traditional number of strokes: forty less one • The common practice of New Moon festivals • The oath drink • The expectation of a Moshiach • Jewish distinction between diaboli and demonia • The duodecimal division of tribes into families• Exogamy • Blood sacrifices with the sprinkling of blood upon the altar and door-posts • Mourning Customs • Obsessions
• Legal defilement • Jewish octave • Law on adultery • Sabbath rest • Levirate marriages •Circumcision • Priestly garb
ZEPhANIAH 3: 10. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia (Nile) my suppliants, [even] the daughter of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.
I don't believe all black people are Jews, I dont even like using that word Jew, I prefer Hebrew Isralite. Certain West african Tribes are Hebraic not all. There is no Isralite anywhere with PURE DOMINANT GENES, ESPECIALLY EuroPE. I dont think god ever gave a percentage of how much DNA one needs to be the people of the book. Ancestry is Ancestry. Also scripture identifies Jacobs seed going into captivity which we did, spread throughout the earth, the lowest, ridiculed, lost heritage, which we are.
My point is this: West African Kigdoms of were at its best under Mosiatic law first and then forced Islam. once we live by the laws of the most high we can begin to improve ourselves and our status in the world. But all of that is impossible if we dont know who we were.
Kingdom of Judah in west Africa
WHYDAH belongs by right of CONQUEST to Dahomey since 1725, when it received its name GLEHWEH, or "The Farm", indicating the part it played in supplying the capital with provisions.
On the route to Agbomey the first station is SAVI (Xavier), former capital of the Kingdom of WHYDAH, whose sovereign was said at one time to command two hundred thousand troops. Beyond Savi the route passes by Tolli, and Allada, the ancient Adara, also formerly the capital of a state, and still regarded as the metropolis of Dahomey, one of the royal titles being "Lord of Allada."
Yet the place was ruined by the Dahomey people themselves in 1724, when they conquered the seaboard route and massacred the inhabitants of Allada.
The British surveyor William Smith, who visited Whydah in 1727, reproted that "all who have been here allowed this to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world."
Smith described the inhabitants of Whydah as gentlemanly people who abounded in good manners and ceremony to one another. All of them, he said, wer enaturally industrious and found constant employment . The men in agriculture and the women in spinning and weaving cotton to make cloth.
What surprised visitors who had observed the sparse population elsewhere in West Africa was the incredible density of the population. Chevralier Des Marchais, who mapped the Kingdom of Whydah in 1725, noted the poepulation was so dense that the Kingdom could almost be said to comprise a single village, and William Smith wrote that "this place is so well inhabited that a man here cannot fail of being in sight of ten or twent N**** towns anywhere within twenty miles of the seaside."
The population was fed by a thriving agriculture that was based on the production of millet but also included New World crops such as maize and sweet potatoes.
European visitors wrote of agriculture in Whydah in rapturous terms. William Smith noted that "the natives were so industrious that no place that was thought fertile could escape being planted, though even within the hedges that enclose their villages and dwelling places, and they were so very anxious in this particular, that the next day after they had reaped they always sowed again without allowing the land any time to rest".
The export of many slaves out of Whydah, which was one of many slave ports, without any visible signs of depopulation , because slaves who were shipped out did not only come from those they took from Whydah Kingdom itself. Instead, the slaves arrived via the trade routes from the inland regions and from the North.
The captives represented as many as thirty different ethnic groups.
The slaves whom the Europeans purchased usually bore scarification, or "country marks," that had been incised into their flesh when they went through initiation as youths. The European slave traders used them to identify the geographical and ethic origins of the slaves.
The most sought after category of slaves, according to Chevalier Des Marchais, who described the system in 1725, were people known as "Mallais." The name did not refer to the slaves themselves, but to the Muslim merchants, dressed in long robes typical of the Sahel region.
Who brought the slaves to Whydah from the North.
Some of the captives, it was said, had spent three months en route before arriving in Whydah.
The Minas were said to be unsuitable for field labor because they were not used to it in their home country. They were said to be persons of honor with great powers of reason and good sense.
The destruction from the research reveals the Europeans and Portuegues coming in and destroying/tearing down and dismantling the countries... killing off their resources, enslaveing them, killing them, preventing them from their own living, scattering and shipping them out of their own stuff.
Royal African Company of England
In May 1681, an attempt was made to establish a secondary factory in the neighbouring Kingdom of Whydah (Whiddaw, Guydah. etc..), to the west; but this proved abortive, the RAC factor left there, John Thorne, being recalled to take over ......
Names attributed to Juda, Whydah, Whiddah, Whidaw, Whid(d)a, Quida, Guidah, Guydah, Judeah...Those names were all the names they called the Kingdom of Juda.
That company also kept letters / correspondent of their trips, the name of the ships and the number of slaves they exported out. They were loading the ships at 200 - 400+ heads. hat English company went on to become one of the biggest Trans Atlantic Slave Trade companies of it's era. Arabs also sold the slaves from the North to the Europeans and Portuguese in West Africa.
Moses forewarned the Children of Israel of the curses that would befall them if they did not follow the commandments of The Most High. In Deuteronomy 28:15 it says this:
‘And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt not harken (listen) unto the voice of the of the L_rd thy G_d, to observe to do all his commandments and his statues which I command thee this day that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee.’
The particular curses that would befall the Children of Israel for not keeping the commandments of G_d is that they would suffer slavery similar to the type of slavery they suffered in Egypt and that they would be transported into this new slavery on ships and that the places where we would be transported they would be sold as slaves to their enemies. In Deuteronomy 28:68 it says this:
‘And the L_rd shall bring thee into Egypt (slavery) again (a second time) with ships (Cargo Slave Ships), by the way whereof I spake unto thee, thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen (slave men) and bondwomen,(slave women) and no man shall buy you’.
This is the missing link between the Hebrew Israelites and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It explains how the Israelites fled into the interiors of Africa as refugees after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. They were rounded up on the African continent and shipped all over the western hemisphere to be sold as slaves. This is the history that has been omitted from the pages of history.
Toward Uniting the Lemba Nation
I don‘t know any Venda language, but I will nevertheless speak to you, my brothers and sisters. The Venda I know only goes as far as mukapo and uuswva, which I think will not be useful or helpful at this juncture. I have managed to pick out these two words which relate to food because of the hospitality you people have shown us since the second we arrived from Zimbabwe. While I was sleeping last night in one of your houses, I was dreaming that one day the Limpopo River will be removed. It’s a river which is separating a nation—The Lemba Nation.
We are the Lembas, people of great honour. In Zimbabwe we still have got a long way to go, but I believe that with your help, my brothers and sisters, we will definitely unite the Lembas in Zimbabwe; at least some progress has been made and we now have put in place a steering committee just to run things. I may speak English with excellent diction and accent, but I am nowhere near an Englishman. You may speak Venda with excellent diction and accent; across the bridge they may speak Shona with excellent diction, accent, or vocabulary, but no one of you is Venda, no one of them is Shona. We are all Lembas. Let me warn you, brothers and sisters, let us not be separated by such things as languages, rivers, political boundaries and all the other potential barriers. Let’s not be separated by these languages, most of which are not our languages, after all. I take this opportunity to tell you that in our endeavor to bring the Lembas of Zimbabwe to their true identity.
The Ten Tribes: East Africa (Ethiopia)
In the 9th century CE, there was a man named Eldad ha-Dani who was a Jewish merchant and traveler and came and went to the Jewish communities of Babylonia, North Africa, and Spain. He left a record of his travels.
Eldad claimed that he was a merchant and scholar from an independent Jewish state that was situated in East Africa. He declared categorically that his country was the home of the Lost Tribes of Asher, Gad, Naphtali, and Dan, and that he himself was from the Tribe of Dan. His name ha-Dani means the Tribe of Dan in Hebrew.
Eldad mentions that in "Kush" of East Africa which is today's Ethiopia (although many scholars & maps agree that Ethiopia encompassed a huge a amount of Africa, far bigger than current Ethiopia) live a lot of descendants of the tribe of Dan and other tribes of Israel.
It is interesting to note that still in the 20th century CE there live a Jewish group called Falashas (if we consider that Ethiopia included far more than today we could add the other Israelite communities of olden times & of present times: Tutsis, Banyamulenges, Himas, Tubus, Qemants... Even the celebrated Eldad the Danite is considered to be be Tutsi) of Ethiopia. Their skin is black and they call themselves "Beta Israel" which means the House of Israel in Hebrew. They have been following the precepts of the Bible since ancient times in a loose fashion. The Falashas in Ethiopia speak Hebrew and keep the Sabbath. Tragically enough many of them were killed by a recent insurgence in Ethiopia, but the remnants emigrated to Israel. They were transported to Israel by the airplanes chartered by the government of Israel in 1983 and 1991. Over 90% of Beta Israel now live in Israel, accepted as Jews.
Eldad ha-Dani mentions also about Khazar kingdom which was located between Black Sea and Caspian Sea. He declares that several tribes from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel live in Khazar. In around 740 CE, the king and the people of Khazar all converted to Judaism. It was a national conversion and this is a well known history among the Jews.
According to Eldad, in Khazar lived three tribes from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. They were Reuben, Gad, and Half Manasseh. About 300 thousand of the people of Khazar were they. In the 9th century CE Joseph, the king of Khazar, wrote, "(the capital of Khazar consists of three towns and) in the second town live the Israelites (probably the Ten Lost Tribes), the descendants of Ishmael, Christians and the people who speak other languages." Thus, some of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel lived there.
Madi ethnic group
Regions with significant populations
South Sudan 80,000
The Mà'dí people live in the Magwi County in South Sudan, and the districts of Adjumani and Moyo in Uganda. From south to north, the area runs from the from Nimule(at Sudan-Uganda border) to Nyolo River where the Ma’di mingle with Acholi, Bari and Lolubo. From the east to west, it runs from Parajok/Magwi to Uganda across the River Nile.
The speakers refer to themselves and are known Madi. In standard orthography this is Ma'di; the aprostrophe indicates that d is implosive. The speakers refer to their language as madi ti, literally meaning Ma'di mouth. Among themselves, Ma'di refer to each other as belonging to a suru ("clan" or "tribe"), which may further be broken down to pa, "the descendants of," which in some cases overlap with suru. While a Madi can only marry someone from outside their clan, they must normally marry within the group that shares the Madi language.
Many neighboring speakers of Moru–Madi languages go by the name of Madi.
According to one popular folk tale, the name Madi came as an answer to a question by a white man to a Madi man. When the first white person in the area asked the question 'who are you?', the bemused response was madi, i.e. a person. This was taken to be the name of the people, which came to be corrupted to the present.
Another Ma'di narrative tries to account for the names of some of the Moru–Ma'di group members. When the progenitors of the Ma'di were pushed southwards, on reaching a strategic location they declared, Muro-Amadri, i.e., "Let's form a settle here". And so they formed a cluster to defend themselves. This group came to be known as the Moru. A group broke off in search of greener pastures in a more or less famished state, until they found an edible tree called lugba('desert dates' - ximenia aegyptiaca).
After they ate some of the fruits, they took some with them. When the time came to refill their stomachs again, a woman who lost her harvest was heard enquiring about the lugba ri 'the desert dates'. This group came to be known as logbara but the Ma'di still call them lugban. The final group on reaching fertile grounds resolved and declared ma di 'here I am (finally)'. And these came to be known as the Ma'di.
Ma’di oral history claims Nigeria as the cradle of Ma’di people – their place of origin. According to the one commonly told oral narrative, the Ma’di people left Nigeria, moved southward until they reached Amadi, a town in southwest Sudan, where they settled. The word Amadi in Ma’di language means here we are. It also means, at our place. From this storyline by then the Ma’di and Moru were still one ethnic group.
From Amadi, Ma’di people traveled eastward reaching River Nile. There they separated into two clusters – Moru and Ma’di. The Moru cluster went back – westward; the Ma’di cluster settled by the riverbank. It is believed the two clusters (groups) separated because of a squabble over a piece of groundnut. A Ma’di man found some groundnut, which he ate it alone. His Moru brother blamed him for being greedy and hence moved away from him.
However today Ma’di oral history (like the Jews) cannot specify the period during which Ma’di migrated from Nigeria to Sudan. Moreover, it cannot also bridge the missing historical link between the present-day Ma’di people and their assumed accentors – the Nigerians. None-Madi scholars who have written on Ma’di have different opinions about the origin of Ma’di. Though it has remained unclear where the Ma’di people came from, most likely they arrived to southern Sudan region, around 1400-1700 A.D. This period coincided with the migration of the Nilotic people from north to south.
As several Ma’di groups moved southeast and southwest of Rajaf, one group crossed the Nile, and traveled south. That group settled at a place called Avori – the present-day Loa. In Avori, a man named Vuri, from Pavura family, became the first custodian of the land. Two groups from Avori moved northward and settled near Mount Remo. One group was called Paakori, the other was called Pafoki.
Years later in Avori, one group called itself Lukai. Ma’di oral history narrators believe the ancestor of Lukai came from Lolubo (Olubo). According one narrative, a man called Jukiri founded the Lukai group. It is believed that Jukiri and his brother Nyikwara were fugitives from Aru, driven away by Lolubo elders.
According to one narrative, in Aru, a group of people gathered under a tree for a meeting. Jukiri and Nyikware were among them. As the meeting went on, the shadow shifted towards the brothers, and Olubo elders were left on the sun. The elders asked the brothers to leave the shadow for them. They refused; so fight broke up. Consequently, the brothers were forced to leave Aru.
It is believed that several factors: drought, inter-clan fights and fights with the Turkish slave raiders (which the indigenous people called Tukutuku), forced Lukai to Mugali. They called Mugali, Agali – meaning, we refused conflicts. However, for their misfortune, conflicts followed them to Mugali. The Tukutuku did not leave them alone.
The people of the southern Sudan had almost no contacts with the northern Sudan, until the beginning of Egyptian rule(also known as Turkish Sudan or Turkiyah) in the north in the early 1820s and the subsequent expansion of the slave trade into the south.
According to an oral history, the Nilotic peoples — the Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, and others — had already established themselves in south Sudan by the time Turks invaded the region. In the nineteenth century, the Shilluk people had established a centralized monarchy which allowed them to conserve their tribal heritage in the face of external pressures in the years which followed the Turkish rule.
By the time the Nilotic peoples had established their dominium in the northern part of the southern Sudan (notably the Bahar El Ghazal region), the non-Nilotic Azande, Moru–Madi, etc., had established themselves in Equatoria region. The Azande people occupied the largest part of the region.
Geographical barriers sheltered the people of southern Sudan, and made it difficult for the Turks to invade the region. Moreover the people of the southern Sudan were hostile to any foreign adventure in their land. But the military might of the Turkish army prevailed in the battles to subdue south Sudan. Because of their proximity to north Sudan, the Nilotic peoples were the first to give in to the Turkyiah.
In April 1854, the relatively peaceful relationship between the Bari people and the foreigners came to an abrupt end, when a Turkish trader, without provocation, fired his guns into a crowd of Bari at Gondokoro. In anger the Bari mounted a counterattack, and the result was destructive to both sides. That incident made the Bari people to become more defensive and less friendly towards the traders (mostly Arabs and Turks) who used violent means to obtain ivory tusks, but also started taking people (young men and women) as slaves. Girls were raped, or taken as wives by force. Some of the foreign traders even built fortified warehouses near Gondokoro where people were kept waiting shipment down the White Nile to north Sudan.
In time the Turkish army was able gain complete control in Equatoria, with its trading headquarter now in Gondokoro. Next, the Turkish army then expanded its occupation further south. Consequently the Madi, Kuku, Lotuko, Acholi and others whose territories lie south of Gondokoro were to fall prey.
Around 1854, the Tukutuku who had already taken over Gondokoro (a Bari town, north of present-day Juba), had also established a camp in Kajo-Keji (a town in Kuku territory). They used the base to mount attacks on the Ma’di people across the Nile. The attacks of the Tukutuku were not limited on Lukai alone, but rather on the Madi people as a whole.
In eastern front, the Tukutuku had established a base in Obbo (a settlement, about a hundred miles southeast of Gondokoro). In mid-1860s, the chief of Obbo was a man called Katchiba. As the Tukutuku consolidated its base in Eastern Equatoria, they managed to pull some natives (Bari and Acholi) to their side. With the help of the natives, they waged successful battles on the Ma’di. For example in one battle, the Tukutuku colluded with the Acholi-Patiko and Acholi-Palabe. They then attacked Mugali, captured chief Bada and took him to Lebubu (Odrupele) and slain him.
Given the superior military power of the Tukutuku and the assistance they got from the natives (who joined them), it was only a matter of time, they defeated the Ma’di people. The Ma’di people were forced to disperse. Some went deeper into the forests; others went further south, to Uganda. Those who were less fortunate were captured, and taken away. Some of those captured were later conscripted into the Tukutuku army; others became laborers.
When the Tukutuku consolidated its base in the Sudan, some of them went further south, and built some bases in Uganda. In Uganda, a group of Tukutuku camped in Odrupele (Lebubu). Tukutuku commander called, Emin Pasha, made the Madi and other ethnic groups (he conscripted into his army), to build a forte. The forte, today known as Dufile Forte, was completed in 1879. The forte it is located on the Albert Nile, inside Uganda. Many of the laborers who built the forte were from Ma’di people. The Madi people mostly live in Moyo, Oodrupele now.
So by the late 1860s, several Ma’di groups from Sudan had migrated to Uganda, where they settled in different places. Some in the west side of the Nile, others on the east. The southern territory of Ma’di groups extended up to Faloro. Faloro was called Ma’di Country, by the English explorers John Hanning Speke and James Augustus Grant, who visited the area in 1863 A.D. Sir Samuel White Baker, who visited the place also a year later also called Faloro Ma’di Country.
Until 1986, to the Madi people the Second Sudanese Civil War, was a foreign story. It did not affect their daily life. Many of them only heard about the war from the radio or from hearsay. However as the SPLA insurgents started moving southward, at one stage they reached the territories inhabited by the Madi people. One of their first encounters with the Madi people was in Owingibul.
In 1985, insurgent group claiming to be SPLA, robbed and plundered the villages in Owinykibul. Some people who witness the incident in Owingibul run to Nimule, to ask the government for help. To their disappointment they did not get the help they needed. The failure of the government to help them, forced the Madi people in Owingibul and others elsewhere, to consider taking the issue of their security into their hands. The incident in Owingibul also caused the Madi people to form the most negative opinion on SPLA.
Further encounters of the Madi people with SPLA soldiers in 1985, only served to harden the position of the Madi people against SPLA. Example, the looting of the property late chief Sabasio Okumu in Loa, the killing of a Madi man called Kayo Mojadia in Loa, the looting of the villages in Moli, made the Madi people to look at SPLA as an enemy and not as a liberation army. And since most of the SPLA soldiers who first came to Madiland were from the Acholi tribe, the Madi people started to look at the Acholi people as aggressors. Such a perception coupled with provocations on the Madi people by some elements in the Acholi tribe, was to breed an enmity between the two tribes, which led to conflicts resulting into dire consequences – for both sides.
Angered by what was happening to their people, and the inability the government to protect them, the Madi people decided to take things into their hand. So in March 1986, in Nimule, the council of Madi elders gathered to decide how to prepare to face further aggressions and plunders from SPLA in the Madiland. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Ruben Surur, then the chief of Lukai. The council unanimously selected Mr. Poliodoro Draru to lead the Madi people in the fight against the aggressors. The meeting was concluded by a traditional Madi ritual, during which Surur gave his ajugo (the biggest spear of a warrior) to Draru.
The choice of the council of elders who selected Draru as an ajugo, was not an accident of history. It was rather based on Draru's track-record in leadership. Moreover, both Surur and Draru came from the Lukai royal family. In fact Draru was the protégée of His Majesty Alimu Dengu. Draru was supposed to succeed Alimu Dengu, but for several reasons, he did not, so Alimu Dengu became the last King of the Madi people.
Now as fate had, Draru had to be in the frontline. To prepare for the future battles, Draru and his chief advisor, Jino Gama Agnasi consulted General Peter Cirilo (of the Sudanese Army, then the governor of Eastern Equatoria) about the situation in Madiland who then gave his blessing for the Madi people to defend themselves. Thus a Madi militia was formed, led by Draru.
As the Madi militia was being was formed, in the meantime the geopolitical situation in the Sudan was changing so fast. The SPLA was becoming stronger as it captured more territories, not least, in Eastern Equatoria region. Moreover, some Madi people decided to join SPLA. Some of the Madi people who were first to join SPLA were Dr Anne Itto (who previously worked as a lecturer at the University of Juba), Mr. John Andruga, and Mr. Martin Teresio Kenyi. These people were later to hold high position in SPLA.
By joining SPLA, first Madi people in the movement thought to turn the SPLA from being the enemy of the people to the liberator of the people. But such as a tactical ploy was not bear the expected fruits. Instead, the Madi people became polarized. One group took side with Draru, the other group stood with SPLA. For example in Moli clan, two brothers (Mr. Tibi and Tombe Celestino) took opposite sides in the war. Whereas Tibi joined SPLA, Mr. Celestino went with Draru.
The polarization of the Madi society was to bring the Madi society to conflicts in which the Madi people paid so heavily; many with their own lives. Only within a matter of three years (between 1986–1988), the Madiland which was very peaceful, became a war zone – a place of great tragedies. For example in Moli area alone, very many innocent people were murdered at river Liro, in resulting battles led by the two brothers: Mr. Tibi and Mr. Celestino. Initially Acholi-Madi clan also took side with the SPLA.
In 1988, realizing that the Madi and Acholi-Madi people had been taken in by the calamity brought by the polarization in the society, in order to stop further tragedies, the Madi and Acholi elders decided that the warring parties reach out to each other.
Consequently Draru's group met his counterpart. Talks and negotiations were then followed by some sort of agreement. However, it seemed that the agreement between the two groups did not change the dynamics of things very much. On a national scale, the SPLA continued to become stronger, as the Sudanese government and the militias it supported were losing ground. In 1988, SPLA captured several strategic towns in Eastern Equatoria: Magwi, Obbo, etc. When it finally captured Torit, the capital city of Eastern equatorial, it became apparent that it was only matter of weeks, it will also capture Nimule.
So early in 1989 (on 3 March 1989 at 3:00 pm), An army of SPLA soldiers made its way to Nimule. However two days before it arrived Nimule, General Peter Cirilo, sent an urgent message to Mr Draru. He wrote, "It is over, please don't fight and destroy your people for the sake of Pyrrhic victory!" Draru listened to the senior General and didn't risk the lives of his soldiers and many Madi people. So Nimule fell to SPLA – without a big battle.
With the fall of Nimule, the militia led by Draru and even the ordinary Madi people fearing revenge from the SPLA soldiers, escaped to [Uganda]. The fear of the people was not to be unfounded; upon their arrival in Nimule, some SPLA soldiers murdered several civilians in cold-blood. However, as the SPLA established itself in Nimule, it leadership started to appeal to the Madi people who escaped to Uganda and elsewhere to come back home. Some of the Madi people listened to the appeal and came back. Others waited until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and SPLA was signed before repatriating. Yet many Madi people decided to remain in Uganda, even after the CPA. Thus the second civil war, diminished the population of the Madi people in Sudan very considerably.
Before the coming of Christianity and Islam to Madi, the predominant religion of Madi people was all about the belief in, and the worship of ancestors who were believed to survive death in form of spirits known as ori. It was believed that the ori could intervene directly in human affairs. Thus the Madi attribute every misfortune to the anger of a spirit and in the event of a misfortune or sickness, they would immediately consult an odzo or odzogo (spirit-medium, like wicked king Saul with the witch of Endor) to find out which ancestor was behind the ordeal. Sacrifices (like apostate Israel) were then offered to the particular spirit in order to avert its malign influence on the living. The powerful families among the Madi were believed to have powerful ancestral spirits to help them however with conversion of majority of Madi people to Christianity, and some to Islam, Rubanga - the Christian God and the Allah of Islam, took the places and roles which once belonged to the ori. Nonetheless, today in the age where most Madi people have converted to the foreign religions, still some believers in the traditional Madi religion try to build a bridge between Rubanga and Ori. Today some Madi people still keep miniature altars called Kidori, were sacrifices are offered to the ancestral spirits in both in good and bad times as a way to approach God. Often at harvest time, the first harvest must be offered to the spirits to thank them for successfully interceding to God on behalf of the living.
Besides the belief in ori, the Madi people also believe in creatures, which are not the spirits of the reincarnated ancestors, but they are deities in their own right. Some of these deities are sacred trees, hills, rivers, snakes, etc. For example among the Moli clan, Jomboloko (a tortoise who is believed to be living in a hill around Moli Tokuru hill), is well known deity. Lots of stories have been told about Jomoloko. Some Moli people still believe in Jomboloko. In the pre-Christian age, it was common practice for a group of people believe in more than one deity. In that sense, some Madi people were polytheistic in their belief. However today, belief in those creatures diminished considerably.
Christianity was first introduced to the Sudan, i.e. Nobatia (northern Sudan and part of Dongola), by a missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora in 540 AD. The second wave of Christianity to the Sudan came during the time of the European Colonialism. In 1892, the Belgian expediters took parts of southern Sudan that came to be named Lado Enclave (i.e. the western bank of Upper Nile region which is today the southeast Sudan and northwest Uganda). After the death of king Leopold II on 10 June 1910, the Lado Enclave, became the province of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, with its capital city at Rajaf. In 1912 the southern part of Lado Enclave become part of northern Uganda, which was also the British Colony. It was during that time the Madi people were divided into the Sudanese and Ugandan Madi. Christianity to the northern part of Lado Enclave was brought via Uganda at about the same time - as Colonialism always went hand in with Christianization
The notion God and the Madi word for it Rubanga, have very recent history. They came with Christianity. For example in the Roman Cathotic Catechesis in Madi language, when asked Rubanga ido oluka adu nga (How old is God), we're expected to answer Rubanga ido oluka ku (God has no beginning). And when asked Adi obi nyi ni oba nyi vu dri ni (who has created you and put you on the Earth), you are expected to answer Rubanga obi mani obama vu dri ni (God has created me and put me on Earth). And we are also asked to believe ta Rubanga abi le ati ri anjeli (the first things God created were angels).
Moving away from the Christian paradigm, if you are to go back the in time, you reach beroniga. Before that there was nothing; the notions like time and space are void of meaning and content. Thus vu(space-time) came along with beronigo and all events and creation came after beroniga.
Now without the context of Christianity, in Madi cosmogony there is no say Rubanga obi vu ni. That cannot be the case since Rubanga came to Madi with Christianity, while vu (space-time) came about since beroniga. It is also erroneous to give the quality of godness to vu since it hasn't any. Vu has always been at the mercy of the ori (the spirit gods). The ori, both good and bad often have their manifestations in trees, snakes, rivers, hills or the souls of departed parents and relatives. While tree-god may die, river-god may dry up, the ori which gave those entities the qualities of godness, never die - they reincarnate! It was at the kidori (stone altars) the Madi people worship ori. In Madi worship is called kirodi di ka (or sometimes vu di ka). When the ori are happy with the people they bless vu, and vu becomes friendly to the inhabitants.
The majority of the Madi are now Christians, while some are Muslim. Most Christian Ma'di are Catholics with some Anglicans. However a plethora of new churches are springing up daily in the area.
There is also a sizeable Moslem community, mostly of Nubi (in Uganda), especially in trading areas like Adjumani, Dzaipi and Nimule. See Juma Oris and Moses Ali. However, even the so-called 'people of the books' often revert to traditional beliefs and practices at traumatic moments. In addition some modern people continue to believe in traditional African religions.
The social and political set-up of the Madi is closely interwoven with spirituality and this forms their attitudes and traditions. The society is organized in chiefdoms headed by a hereditary chief known as the Opi. The Opi exercised both political and religious powers. The rain-makers, land chiefs – vudipi (who exercises an important influence over the land) and the chiefs are believed to retain similar powers even after their deaths. There was a hierarchy of spirits corresponding exactly to the hierarchy of authority as it existed in the society. The Opi (Chief/King) is the highest Authority in Madi (as the king of prophet in ancient Israel was followed in rank by the elders), he is followed in rank by the community of elders who are responsible for resolving disputes, in the clans/villages. Historically the office an opi has always been held by a man. There is no record of a female opi.
The main economic activity that the Ma'di have traditionally engaged in is agriculture. The prevalence of tsetse fly depleted the livestock population at the end of the nineteenth century. Almost the whole population live off the land planting and growing mostly seasonal food crops like sesame, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, maize, millet and sorghum. Most of these are for personal consumption; only the excess is sold for cash. The main cash crops grown are cotton in Uganda and tobacco in the Sudan.
Those who live close by the Nile do some fishing for commercial purposes. The main fishing grounds are Laropi (Uganda) and Nimule (South Sudan). Most of the fish caught in Nimule is smoke dried and transported to be sold in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. An important seasonal activity used to be hunting. This has dwindled in importance partly because of curbing of hunting by governments, and partly because Nimule is designated as a National Park, making it illegal to hum in or around it. The hunting season used to be the dry season when most of the agricultural activities for the year have been completed and the grass is dry enough to be burned.
Blacksmiths (a former widespread proffesion among the Jews) have a particular significance in regard to the Ma'di. The Ma'di were at one time associated with the 'Ma'di hoc', which was once used as currency in marriages by both the Ma'di and the neighbouring tribes like the Acholi. who call it kweri ma'di 'Ma'di hoe. This was made by the blacksmiths (eremu). However, the Ma'di have low opinions of the blacksmiths, despite the important economic role they play in the society. They are thought to be a lazy lot who spend the whole day in the shed while the rest are toiling in the hot sun. They are also blamed for the fall of mankind from grace.
The Havila Institute
Havila aims to preserve their right to live as Jews, and simply to be alive, in the Great Lakes region of central Africa at the source of the White Nile (the biblical River Pishon), which encompasses Burundi, Rwanda, and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Tanzania. This is their historic Homeland, that part of the Kush Empire extending from Ethiopia and identified as Havila in Genesis 2:11 and as the area beyond the rivers of Kush in Zephania 3:10.
The Batutsi are our Hebraic brothers and sisters, and have been since the time of Moses. Under culturally genocidal pressures from the colonial powers and the Church, many Batutsi found it necessary to embrace Christianity, so that Burundi and Rwanda are the most Catholic countries in Africa. Of course, that did not save the upwards of a million Tutsis who, in 1994, perished through physical genocide at the hands of their neighbors in Rwanda, nor the hundreds of thousands who perished in Burundi in 1993, nor is it likely to save others who continue to die or live under the threat of death in Burundi, Rwanda, and eastern Congo.
The men wore their kippot proudly, though half of them, Yochanan estimated, probably still considered themselves Catholics, knowing also that they were Jews but not yet knowing what that meant.
The Agaw (Ge'ez አገው Agaw, modern Agew) are an ethnic group in Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea.
The Agaw are perhaps first mentioned in the 3rd-century AD Aksumite inscription recorded by Cosmas Indicopleustes in the 6th century. The inscription refers to a people called "Athagaus" (or Athagaous), perhaps from ʿAd Agaw, meaning "sons of Agaw." The Athagaous first turn up as one of the peoples conquered by the unknown king who inscribed the Monumentum Adulitanum. The Agaw are later mentioned in an inscription of the 4th-century Aksumite King Ezana and 6th-century King Kaleb. Based on this evidence, a number of experts embrace a theory first stated by Edward Ullendorff and Carlo Conti-Rossini that they are the original inhabitants of much of the northern Ethiopian highlands, and were either forced out of their original settlements or assimilated by Semitic-speaking Tigray-Tigrinya and Amhara peoples. Cosmas Indicopleustes also noted in his Christian Topography that a major gold trade route passed through the region "Agau". The area referred to seems to be an area east of the Tekezé River and just south of the Semien Mountains, perhaps around Lake Tana.
They currently exist in a number of scattered enclaves, which include the Bilen in and around Keren in Eritrea; the Qemant and the Qwara, who live around Gondar in the Semien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region, west of the Tekezé River and north of Lake Tana; a number of Agaw live south of Lake Tana, around Dangila in the Agew Awi Zone of the Amhara Region; and another group live around Sokota in the former province of Wollo, now part of the Amhara Region, along its border with the Tigray Region.
The Cushitic speaking Agaw people ruled during the Zagwe dynasty of Ethiopia from about 900 to 1270. The name of the dynasty itself comes from the Ge'ez phrase Ze-Agaw (meaning "of Agaw"), and refers to the Agaw people.
The Agaw speak Agaw languages, which are a part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Many also speak Amharic, Tigrinya and/or Tigre, which are also Afro-Asiatic languages but of the Semitic branch.
The Northern Agaw are known as Bilen, capital Keren
The Western Agaw are known as Qemant, capital Gondar
The Eastern Agaw are known as Xamta, capital Soqota
The Southern Agaw are known as Awi, capital Injibara
Also included in this ethnic grouping are the Beta Israel, who formerly lived in the northern Amhara region with the Qemant and Qwara, but in the late 1990s nearly all of this group had emigrated to Israel.
The Black Jews
The ancient Castle of Fasiledes, Gondar City, northern Ethiopia. Ancient Gondar roughly north of Lake Tana & south of Tekezé River
Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto Me, O children of Israel, saith the Lord. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, And the Philistines from Caphtor, And Aram (Syria) from Kir.
Those Jewish communities, Beta 'Esra'el and the Ayhud dwelt in the area of Aksumite and Ethiopian Empires (Habesh or Abyssinia), principally in North and North-Western Ethiopia, in more than 500 small villages spread over a wide territory, among Muslim and predominantly Christian populations. Most of them were concentrated in the area around Lake Tana and north of it, in the Tigray Region, among the Wolqayit, Shire and Tselemt] and Amhara Region of Gonder regions, among the Semien Province, Dembia, Segelt, Quara, and Belesa.
Origins of Abyssinian Jews
The early days of the Beta 'Esra'el (House of Israel) community in Abyssinia remain a mystery. There is no doubt that the roots of Judaism were influential in this part of Africa at a very early date --perhaps even as far back as the First Temple period. Since there are no factual data from those times, and given the Ethiopian Jews' racial resemblance to native Ethiopians, various theories have been proposed concerning the origins of the community, based on superficial research of their traditions, customs and roots.
Many aspects of Ethiopian culture still show traces of Judaic influence. The Abyssinian Church is considered very close to ancient Judaism, with customs such as circumcision, a form of Sabbath observance, dietary laws similar to those found in the Tora, and other practices preserved in its doctrine. We know that before the spread of Christianity in the 4th century CE, the Mosaic faith was practiced in Abyssinia, alongside the idol worship which still remains widespread.
According to Ethiopia national legend, the founder of the royal dynasty, whose last monarch was Negus (Emperor) Haile Selassie --the symbolic and titular "Lion of Judah" --was the son of the Queen of Sheba (Makida, according to the legend) and King Solomon.
The son, Menelik, as an educated adult, returned to his father in Jerusalem, and then resettled in Ethiopia together with many members of the Israelite tribes, including priests and Levites. He also smuggled the Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Law out from Jerusalem, and brought them to Aksum, capital of ancient Abyssinia. The Jews of Ethiopia do not generally accept this legend, and take it to be mere fabrication. However, this old tradition only strengthens what we know from other sources --that there was an early Jewish influence in Abyssinia .
A 9th-century tradition, based on the story of Eldad ha-Dani (the Danite), maintains that during the rift between Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and Jeroboam, son of Nebat --leaders of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel respectively --the tribe of Dan chose not to be drawn into tribal disputes. To avoid the impending civil war they resettled in Egypt. Once there, the Danites continued southwards up the Nile to the historic Land of Cush (today in Sudan and Ethiopia) and found it to be rich in resources. Eldad ha-Dani himself was probably from this area. According to his report, members of the tribes of Naftali, Gad and Asher lived there together with the Danites, and he himself could trace his ancestry back to Dan, son of Jacob.
This tradition, which may have a certain Biblical basis, is also found in other medieval sources. Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro came across two Abyssinian Jewish prisoners of war in Egypt in the late 15th century and wrote that they claimed to be descended from the tribe of Dan. Rabbi David ben-Zimra (RaDBaZ) ruled in his 16th century responsa that the Jews of Ethiopia were unquestionably Danites who had settled in Abyssinia, possibly even before the Second Temple period. The tradition appears to have been widely held by the Jews of Abyssinia and the surrounding areas until recently, though this is no longer the case today.
At the time when the Ten Tribes were exiled to Assyria (during the reign of King Hosea, son of Elah of Israel, approximately one century before the First Temple was destroyed and Judah was exiled), the Prophet Isaiah prophesied the End of Days, when the dispersed people of Israel and Judah would be gathered in from their place of exile. Cush is one of the places mentioned.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, that shall remain from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12)
The return of the people living "beyond the rivers of Abyssinia" to "the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts" is prophesied in detail in Isaiah 18:7 and Zephania 3:10. These sources are sufficient to demonstrate Jewish presence in Ethiopia towards the end of the First Temple period.
After the destruction of the First Temple, the Jewish community in Egypt expanded. Findings discovered at the beginning of this century in Yev (Elephantine) in southern Egypt on the Nile, near Aswan (the area of Biblical Pathros) indicate there were Jewish communities near the Sudanese border dating at least to the Return to Zion in the Persian period. The Jews of Yev, like those of Abyssinia, built a temple and performed sacrifices, but did not reject the sanctity of Jerusalem and its Temple. Similarly, Onias' Temple, in Lower Egypt, dates from the Second Temple period. Other similarities in traditions and special customs support the evidence of a link between the ancient Egyptian Jews and those of Ethiopia.
Other sources tell of many Jews who were brought as prisoners of war from Eretz Israel by Ptolemy I (322-285 B.C.E.) and also settled on the border of his kingdom with Nubia (Sudan). Even today, a people with Hebraic similarities has been found dwelling in the region south of Sudan, in Uganda.
It can therefore be assumed that the Jewish communities in Pathros were destroyed and that the Jews headed south in search of a new place to live along the most convenient route --up the Nile via Sudan to its sources around Lake Tana in northwest Ethiopia. Ethiopian Jews live there to this day.
Another tradition handed down in the community from father to son asserts that they arrived either via the Quara district in western Ethiopia, or via the Guango River, where the Nile tributaries flow into Sudan. Some accounts even specify the route taken by the forefathers on their way upstream from Egypt.
These waves of exiles, each arriving in a different period, probably converted some of the native people, which could explain the physical resemblance between Ethiopian Jews and non-Jews. It should be made clear that Jewish sources do not regard external appearance and skin color as indicative of Jewishness in any way. Indeed, it is well known that Jews bear a resemblance to the Gentile populations of their various Diaspora surroundings.
Various scholars have provided other theories. Some view Beta 'Esra'el as descendants of the tribe of Agau, which converted to Judaism in ancient times. Others regard the community as descendants of converted Yemenite Arabs or of Yemenite Jews who were brought to Abyssinia during the Abyssinian rule of the Yemen and who intermarried with the Agau tribe in the early centuries of the Common Era. Some even consider Beta 'Esra'el a Gentile community with traces of Jewish tradition.
There are inconclusive theories, based chiefly on racial similarity and a superficial study of traditions, community customs and Hebrew sources.
In summary, it may be assumed that Jews reached Abyssinia as early as the last First Temple period, and that additional groups came after its destruction, and during the Second Temple period, via Egypt and the Nile. Converts, and perhaps even Jews from the Yemen, probably reinforced and increased the Jewish community, which was already established and exerting great influence in the regions surrounding Lake Tana.
One fact is clear from all the sources: The Falashas have always regarded themselves as Jews, believers in the Faith of Moses, exiled from Eretz Israel, and quite distinct from the native Gentiles. They were also regarded as such by the Christian, Muslim and idol-worshipping Ethiopian communities around them.
From the Historical Records of the Abyssinian Jewish Community
The history of Beta 'Esra'el (Beta Israel) in Ethiopia is fairly similar to that of other Jewish communities in the Diaspora. For many generations their foreignness made them targets for hostility, harsh legislation, forced conversion, persecution and even murder by their neighbors. The amazing fact that they survived so hostile an environment says much for the determination and will to exist which have empowered Jews everywhere to endure difficult times, through their devotion and praise of God's name.
This is what Beta Israel has in common with other Diaspora Jewish communities. However, there are two features which distinguish the history of Beta Israel from those of other exiles.
First of all, Beta Israel has been completely isolated from the rest of the Jewish people, including those in neighboring Yemen and Egypt, for about 24,00 years. This is extremely significant and illustrates the uniqueness of the community. Of all Jewish communities which have survived to this day, Beta Israel is the one which most merits the description "lost" or "distant" tribe.
Secondly, the Jews of Ethiopia enjoyed a "golden" period of independence and rule. During the power struggles and wars of the Middle Ages, the Falashas were not an unfortunate minority persecuted by the rulers and native population. On the contrary, for centuries the Jews were a powerful force among the Abyssinian tribes. They apparently numbered in the hundreds of thousands; they fought and rebelled. They were even at times victorious and assumed power.
The Jews and their history in Abyssinia are first mentioned explicitly sometime around the 10th century. Around 960, the Falashas and the Agau tribes rebelled against the kings of Aksum (the dynasty of Menelik) and the dominant Christian religion. The uprising was led by a queen known as Judith or Esther, sometimes identified as "the Jewess", leader of the Falashas. Judith set out to eradicate Christianity from the land, burning churches and monasteries and slaughtering monks and priests. Following here, a new royal dynasty, called the Zagwe, rose to power and ruled Abyssinia for about 350 years. Apparently the Ethiopian Jews enjoyed great influence under this regime.
The Menelik Dynasty resumed control in the latter half of the 13th century and launched war almost incessantly against the Falashas. The result was the effective loss of Falasha independence, with the final downfall of the Jews of Ethiopia sometime in the early 17th century.
In 1332, Emperor Amda Siyon (1314-1344) sent his military commander, Tzaga Chrisus, to attack the Falashas, who had risen against him in northern and western Abyssinia, as he pursued a holy war against the Muslims in the south and east. He repressed the Falashas cruelly and pushed them back to their strongholds in the Semyen Mounts.
Amda Siyon's great-grandson, Negus Ishak (1414-1429), also fought the Falashas and built churches on the ruins of their synagogues. Twenty-four Abyssinian judges were dismissed for daring to protest against the evil done to the Jews.
Negus Za'ra Ya'kob (1434-1468) continued the persecutions and added the title "Exterminator of the Jews" to his name. His subjects were required to tie a strip of parchment to their foreheads bearing an inscription expressing their commitment to the Christian faith. Interestingly enough, however, Jewish influence grew during his reign. Contemporary Abyssinian chronicles tell of Jewish converts, including the son of the Negus himself, Abba Tzaga, who became a well-known and influential Jewish hermit and friend of Abba Tzabra, one of the community's spiritual leaders.
The warfare and persecution continued, on and off, throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Echoes of the wars spread far and wide. Jews in Mediterranean countries who heard of the battles or met Falasha prisoners of war offered for sale in slave markets, primarily in Egypt, believed that the strife might indicate the coming of the Messiah, since this event was supposed to be preceded by war between Jews and Christians.
During the reign of Negus Lebna Dengel (1508-1540) and his son Claudius (1540-1559), Muslim forces under Arab Emir Ehmed Garan, ruler of eastern Ethiopia and Somalia, conquered broad stretches of Ethiopia including Semyen and Dembia, where the Jews had settled. With the help of the Portuguese, who intervened in Abyssinia (at the time one of Portugal's New World discoveries en route to India), Negus Claudius liberated his land from the Muslims and took revenge on the Falashas and their king, Yoram, whom he executed for aiding the Muslim enemy. The new Falasha King, Radi, went to war with Negus Minas (1559-1563); upon defeat, however, he was taken prisoner by Minas' successor, Negus Sarsa-Dengel (1563-1597).
A detailed chronicle describes Sarsa-Dengel's brutal wars against the Falashas, under the leadership of Kaleb, Radai's brother, wherein the Jews were badly beaten. The Abyssinian chronicle describes Falasha acts of heroism at the very time when their downfall became increasingly clear.
Black Jew Praying
Some excerpts from this chronicle follow:
...The Falashas struck (Sarsa-Dengel's) armies which fought on that day, pursuing them as far as the slope, with not a single loss among them apart from one of the leaders ... The heart of the mighty king, Malakh Sagad, was sorely hurt by the shame of this, and he came to Semyen ... On that night, however, none of the Falashas had girded his strength to fight and trouble them; for the fear of the king had come upon them and the couriers of the city surrounding them ... The camp split into three factors on that day. The Falashas rose against those taking the third route, knowing that the king was not there and had chosen a different route. Piktor, son of Penuel the Commissioner, defeated them, causing many deaths; he delivered the king twenty heads severed at the neck. This was our master's first triumph and the beginning of the Falashas' downfall. He spent the entire night sleepless, scheming and designing how to get down from the mountain on which he had taken shelter...
The war between the Falashas and the king's forces intensified. Kaleb's forces employed the device of rolling stones upon their enemies so they could not climb the mountain; the king's forces had to postpone their ascent accordingly. At the seventh hour, the king ordered them to fire cannon. The first volley felled Tzavarei Alama and a woman who had hidden under a tree. Kaleb and his men were fear-stricken at this, for it appeared to them that the thunder had fallen from the sky. Dob'a Siltan came down to them from the hill --he had encamped there to guard the narrow passage --the result being that the Falashas were encountered at once from left and right, from above and below ...
This time half the Falashas fell by point of sword and arrow, throwing their souls to the valley as they fled. The beasts --bulls, camels, mules and donkeys --were also killed; none remained alive ... For Abba Nevai it was complete annihilation; no man or woman either young or old, nor any animal was left standing.
A wondrous thing then occurred. A captive woman was being led by her captor, her hand tied to his. When she saw they were walking on the rim of a great abyss, she shouted "God help me!" and cast herself -- and, with her, the man who had bound her hand to his against her will -- into the abyss.
How wonderfully heroic this woman was, pledging her soul to death in exchange for one (soul) of the Christian community. Nor was she the only one who did so. Many other women did it, but she was the first whom I saw. Their deed resembles that of the forty men under Ben-Gurion who swore to go to their deaths together and who indeed did so, killing one another rather than giving themselves up to Rome. They all died on that day, apart from Yosef (Ben-Matityahu, i.e., Flavius Josephus) who alone was saved through his wisdom. In this respect it resembles the deaths of the earlier and later ones who preferred suicide to obeisance of men who are not of their faith, for the Jews do not consort with the Christians, even to the extent of a single word ... (J. Halevy, La Guerre de Sarsa-Dengel contre les Falashas, Paris, 1907.)
Another description from the same Abyssinian Christian source instructs us of the cruelty of the Christians, who viewed the Falashas as enemies of their faith:
Marcus the Commissioner, in Bagemder at the time, was eyewitness to the event and to the event and to the might of the kingdom in the days of Negus Ba'ada Maryam, when these Falashas lived of whose history we shall write:
Marcus, fighting them, sat for seven years at the foot of their mountain; then he vanquished them with great labor and cunning, capturing them and conquering all their cities. Afterwards he had the following thought: how can I forgive these accursed ones who ever angered the Holy Spirit with the evil of their deeds? I should better annihilate them than leave them alive. Speaking thus, he ordered his crier to make the following announcement: Every Falasha will report to the commander I have placed over him; I will destroy the house and seize the property of anyone who does not comply.
Once all the Falashas had assembled around Marcus the Commissioner --a great assembly, indeed --he ordered his men to sever their heads by sword point until their blood flowed and their corpses filled the fields. Then the ridicule which their forefathers had said on the day they crucified our Lord --may His blood be upon us and our children -- was fulfilled.
... With this we present the rout of Radai, who fell as disgracefully as had Sennacherib and was humiliated as the Devil was for his pride. He had renamed the mountains of his cities with names of the mountains of Israel, calling one Mount Sinai and another Mount Tabor; there were several others whose names we have not mentioned. How evil is this Jewish pride, which crowned the mountains with names of the mountains of Israel upon which the Lord descended ... (Ibid.)
In the early 17th century, during the reign of Negus Susenyos (1607-1632), the Falashas were still rebelling against the crown near the mountains of Semyen. Intent upon destroying the Falashas, the negus began to conquer their strongholds, slaughtering men, women and children as he proceeded. The Falasha King Gideon and large numbers of his supporters were massacred. The rebels were surrounded and faced laws requiring forced baptism. Many of them did convert to Christianity and were sold into slavery.
This period marked the end of the relative independence and self-government which the Jews of Abyssinia had enjoyed for many generations. They now faced years of suffering as a persecuted minority. They were no longer entitled to own land; their rights were taken away. They became despised, objects of scorn.
But even in those difficult times, the Jews of Abyssinia maintained Jewish tradition in their villages, and isolated themselves from Gentiles and Gentile customs.
They became progressively fewer in number, and were estimated at between 100,000 and 250,000 in the 19th century. Since they were poor and lacking in other resources, they had to make use of the holy writings of the Coptic Church.
European Christian missionaries first came to Ethiopia in the 17th century and attempted to convert the Jewish minority, whom they considered a suitable target for their activities, but it was only in the middle of the 19th century that Western European Protestant missionaries saw the fruits of these efforts. They invested a great deal of money and effort into renewing the campaign, and succeeded in converting many Ethiopian Jews to Christianity.
Form then on, with more European missionaries, travelers and researchers visiting Abyssinia, reports of the lost Jewish tribe began to reach Europe and world Jewry.
A sudden rage of Jewish Messianic fervor for Zion broke out among the Falashas, who were torn between the hostile regime of Negus Theodore (1855-1865) and Christian missionaries claiming that the Messiah (Jesus) had already brought the Gospel to the world. In 1862 six of the community's kesoch (priests) with Abba Mahari at their head, led thousands from their villages, with absolutely no preparation, northwards to the Red Sea and Jerusalem. They believed that God would perform a miracle and divide the waters as He had during the Exodus.
This "revival" came to a bitter end when the convoy stopped close to Aksum in the Tigre district of northern Ethiopia. Many of the pilgrims had died of hunger and epidemics; the rest returned to their villages, only to find they had been destroyed while they were away.
It was at this time that Ethiopian Jewry first began to have contact with Jews from the rest of the world. Joseph Halevy, the first Alliance Israelite Universelle emissary, reached the Falasha villages in 1867-8.
The situation of the Ethiopian Jews worsened towards the end of the 19th century. By the turn of the century, their numbers were estimated at only 60,000. Many died from epidemics and famine. An invasion of Muslim Dervishes from Sudan in 1889 devastated parts of western Ethiopia and seriously harmed the Falasha villages. And many were converted by missionaries.
It was only at the beginning of this century that the Ethiopian Jewish community began to raise their hopes. This was largely due to the efforts of Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch, who felt a responsibility to act on behalf of the Jewish People as the savior of Ethiopian Jews. Through him, Ethiopian Jews sent letters to other Jews throughout the world and received encouraging answers expressing identification with them, which bolstered their morale and helped them to stand up to the relentless efforts of the missionaries.
In 1923, Dr. Faitlovitch opened a school in Addis Ababa for young Ethiopian Jews. During the first half of the century, he enrolled some 40 young Falashas in Jewish religious schools in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany and Jerusalem. Although they returned to Ethiopia, only a few of them helped the community to benefit from their newly expanded knowledge of Judaism and the world in general.
Italy's occupation of Ethiopia (1936-1941) brought Jewish activity to a halt, and the school in Addis Ababa was closed.
Since Ethiopian independence was restored, and in fact throughout most of this century, Ethiopian Jews have --at least according to the law --enjoyed equal rights. However, the native population has remained hostile to the community to the extent that even lives have been lost.
As progress spread through Ethiopia, young Jews began to move from the villages into the cities, in particular to Gondar and the surrounding area. Though younger members of the community moved away from their villages and thus from their tradition and began to assimilate, it must be emphasized that the Falashas in the villages have kept faithfully to their religious traditions.
The Jews of Ethiopia --estimated in 1983 at about 30,000 --have maintained their Jewish faith and religious love of Zion and the Holy Land. The birth of the State of Israel, and its subsequent contact with them made them more determined to protect what was left of the Jewish population from total assimilation.
It may be said that if this community --which is settling "en masse" in Israel today --had not been saved, the rest of the Jewish People might never had known of this wonderful "lost" tribe. However, the promise God made through his prophets that the Jews of Cush would return to Zion and to Jerusalem has not been broken; it is taking place before our eyes.
The 2005 movie "Live and Become" explores the challenges of Ethiopian Jews (and African Jews generally) in the land of Israel. Having returned at long last and with high hopes to the land of Israel, they discover that for them, the land does not at once "flow with milk and honey." They confront discrimination, misunderstanding, and yes, prejudice from their fellow Jews. This is the movie that Ofra Haza embellishes with her beautiful love-song "My Ethiopian Boy." Reviewer Stephen Holden says "Live and Become" exerts a tidal pull. It makes you feel the weight of history, of populations on the move in a restless multicultural world. It makes you reconsider cultural assimilation, a process that may seem to be complete but whose underlying conflicts may never be fully resolved.
About the "Lost" Book of Enoch
What is the so-called Lost Book of Enoch? The "Book of Enoch" are the continuously preserved Ethiopian writings of the Old Testament predating Noah and Moses. These were rediscovered within the Dead Sea scrolls. The Book of Enoch was extant centuries before the birth of Christ and yet is considered by many to be more Christian in its theology than Jewish. It was considered scripture by many early pre-gentile Christians. The earliest literature of the so-called "Church Fathers" is filled with references to this mysterious book. For many centuries this book has been misunderstood, as it expounds on Genesis 6 concerning a race of fallen angels mating with women, the birth of their offspring (the giants, AKA the Nephelim), the origins of demons, and what we know today as UFO's & "aliens." The book further prophesied the coming of a messiah (Jesus) who will judge the wicked and save his elect at the end days. For the first time ever, the ancient mysteries are being unsealed. As it is written, in the last days, "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." Now the book of secrets, the record of Enoch the black Semite has been opened and is now widely available to anyone who dares to rediscover the ancient truth found in this book which has been hidden from the ages.
Somalia's Outcast Yibir
According to Mohamed Abdi Mohamed (Mondes en Développement 1989, 68), the Yibir may have been the descendants of a Tzigane tribe who emigrated to the Somali coast. This author adds that Somalis of the Abgaal and Reer Shebeeli tribes were using names based on the word Yibir. Abdi Mohamed mentions that Somalis were afraid of members of the Yibir (or Yibro) (Ibid., 67). The Yibir are considered to be members of the Somali Jewish community. The Yibir are divided between the Madoobe Barsame Gaaljecel and Sooraante Gaaljecel clans or tribes (Ibid. 69).
In his book A Pastoral Democracy, I. M. Lewis makes a distinction between the Midgaan, the Tumaal, and the Yibir bondsmen of northern Somaliland "...who, though known collectively by the same name as that of the common ancestor of the Digil and Rahanwayn, are quite distinct from them" (1961, 14).
The Tutsi Jews and the Pan-Kush Hebrew Diaspora
Ninety years ago, my ancestors, the renowned Pastoralist Watutsi/Tutsi Israelites of Kush -- in Burundi, Rwanda, Eastern Congo, Uganda, Northern Tanzania -- wore tzitzit and head tefillin. Today the survivors wear fear, humiliation, and despair. Millions of Tutsi have been killed and the ongoing Holocaust is an endless tragedy of ‘Again and Again.’
If Israel were to have a surrogate sister, Rwanda would be it. The latter is also a major recipient of U.S. financial and military support. And like Israel, the tiny African country boasts an influence far greater than its size. Both countries are surrounded by hostile, resource-rich neighbors in an insecure region. Rwanda also puts a premium on defense and security, and its armed forces are among the strongest in Africa.
The Tutsi Jews and the Pan-Kush Hebrew Diaspora
By Prof. Yochanan Bwejeri
Ninety years ago, my ancestors, the renowned Pastoralist Watutsi/Tutsi Israelites of Kush -- in Burundi, Rwanda, Eastern Congo, Uganda, Northern Tanzania -- wore tzitzit and head tefillin. Today the survivors wear fear, humiliation, and despair. Millions of Tutsi have been killed and the ongoing Holocaust is an endless tragedy of ‘Again and Again.’
Dr Itzhak Ben-Zvi, the third President of Israel, was very much fascinated by the miracle of the Scattered Tribes of Israel. In 1957 he wrote a well documented book: The Exiled and the Redeemed, inwhich the Jews of Ethiopia hold a respectful place, just in the same chapter as the Jews of Upper Egypt and of those of Himyar (Yemen). If the book had to be re-edited today, his natural interest in the ancient and modern independent Jewish Kingdoms and states worldwide would certainly have led him to include two obviously missed subchapters: The Jewish Kingdoms of the South Kush (commonly called the African Great Lakes) and the Jewish Kingdoms of West Africa. The Tutsi (or Batutsi/Watutsi) are the traditional keepers of the South Kush Jewish Kingdoms. In West Africa, the Toubous are the traditional keepers of the West Africa Jewish Kingdoms.
The Tutsi and the Toubous share the same origins as their cousins, the Jews of Ethiopia, tracing their common ancestry from King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. Israeli Chief Rabbis Avraham Ytzchak Kook and Ovadia Yosef, and US Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof, would have included the Tutsi and the Toubous as descendents of Dan, following the 1500s responsum of a renowned Orthodox Rabbi, Rbadaz,Rabbi David ibn Zimrah. In fact, numerous branches of the Tutsi elite belong to the Judah lineage. The Tutsi Jewishness was obstructed by the Christian Inquisition that took place since the 1920s, and was never addressed until the late 20th Century. At that time, Havila Institute in Brussels dedicated huge efforts to enhance the re-connection of the Tutsi people to their Jewish heritage, and helped raise awareness among concerned Jewish institutions.
The Toubous face a similar but more ancient case of obstruction. They were forcibly converted to Islam centuries ago by the successive Jihads that took place in Northern Africa from the Arabian Peninsula, but they kept the remembrance of their Israelite origins. Today, Tutsis in increasing numbers are seeking t’shuvah, return. Like the Western Jews, they envision ge’ulah, redemption. They deserve pro-active support and monitoring from concerned Jewish organizations and networks. Like the Western Jewish Diaspora, the Tutsi Jews, some parts of which have been forcibly converted to Christianity and forbidden to practice the ways of Y”H, are People of Israel, no less than the Falasha Mura of Ethiopia.
Shooting star of the continent
After undergoing the trauma of civil war and genocide less than 20 years ago, Rwanda is now the country to watch in Africa. One social and educational pioneer says that his country has a lot in common with Israel, and that the kibbutz was the inspiration for his project
It had been a long journey. After weathering desert sands, endless visa lines, crowded bus rides and long periods of waiting for one clerk or another, Narcisse Mitali arrived at the gates of Zion. The young guitarist, dusty and hard-skinned, had taken the bus from Cairo, ending a journey that had begun further south, near the heart of Africa. "Like the ancient Israelites," says Mitali, who is better known as Natty Dread in Rwanda, where he is one of the country's most famous Rastafari musicians. "Right up to the border."
Mitali explains that in the eyes of the Rastafarian movement, Israel has a mystical status, but it has an even more special meaning for him, an ethnic Tutsi. Some Tutsi believe Israel is a living, breathing ancestral "brother," along with Ethiopia, where some historians argue that Rwanda's Tutsi population originated.
It was 1983, and the world seemed to be a dangerous place. Israel had just gone to war with Lebanon. The Americans were busy trying to repulse the Soviets. And Mitali was fleeing problems of his own. Tensions between the Tutsi and the Hutu majority were surging in his tiny, sun-drenched home of Rwanda. His family had grown up as refugees in Uganda, and as tremors of ethnic violence pulsed through his homeland, Mitali moved to nearby Kenya and soon applied for an Israeli visa. "It was my destiny," he says.
The situation in Rwanda took a turn for the worse. When the president's plane was shot down in 1994, it sparked a genocide that, in three tumultuous months, wiped out nearly one million Tutsi - and 18 members of Mitali's family alone.
By that time, Mitali was already far away, in Israel, playing guitar occasionally at the Soweto club on Frishman Street in Tel Aviv. When he didn't have enough money, he did what many people did: take to the land. Mitali says his time toiling as a farmhand on kibbutzim and moshavim throughout the country - from Naan to Amirim, to Ein Gedi, to Gesher Haziv, to Shefayim, where he met his first wife - gave him a sense of self, a sense of worth.
Mitali returned to Rwanda, now gearing up for its second presidential elections since the genocide, scheduled for August. He is one of a cadre of people from the diaspora who are trying to build a new state on top of the ruins. They are followers of President Paul Kagame, who, through tough words and actions, has brought a generation of Tutsi home, to live in a state of peace among former enemies rather than pursue revenge. This has transformed Rwanda into a shooting star in the developing world, and Kagame is its spokesman.
With seriousness and a sense of urgency, the new Rwanda is soaring. Cranes tower over gleaming buildings. Fiber-optic cables crisscross the rich, pregnant earth. Investors from states as diverse as Dubai, Korea and Israel are flying in. America is advising the army, as are the Chinese.
In many ways, Mitali - who has dreadlocks down to his waist and says he took his stage name, "Natty Dread," from Bob Marley's 1974 album of that name" - is the embodiment of a spirit and an identity that are pervasive among the members of the Tutsi diaspora who are returning to and rebuilding Rwanda.
If Israel were to have a surrogate sister, Rwanda would be it. The latter is also a major recipient of U.S. financial and military support. And like Israel, the tiny African country boasts an influence far greater than its size. Both countries are surrounded by hostile, resource-rich neighbors in an insecure region. Rwanda also puts a premium on defense and security, and its armed forces are among the strongest in Africa.
The current election campaign has highlighted Rwanda's most pressing issues. Land is precious there: Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. Although the two countries' geography is different, neither have minerals or oil. Developing a telecommunications industry has thus been at the forefront of Rwanda's development strategy, as it seeks to make people a more powerful resource.
While both Israel and this African nation share capitalist orientations and are influenced by America, Kagame's Rwanda has some strong socialist underpinnings: For instance, on the last Saturday of each month, every citizen must perform outdoor community work, called "Umuganda"; there is universal health insurance; and upon completing secondary school, young boys attend solidarity camps.
In Rwanda, as in Israel, life in the present is strongly affected by the past. According to historians, and the government website, the Tutsi ruled Rwanda beginning in the 15th century, when they first arrived and swiftly gained dominance over the more populous Hutu. During colonial rule under the Germans, and later under the Belgians, differences between the two groups were accentuated. Noses and height were measured, skin color was studied, and a racial policy was institutionalized by the government. One popular approach embraced by colonial-era scientists, known as the Hamitic theory, is that the Tutsi originally migrated south from Ethiopia. Many Rwandans believe that Jews also came from Ethiopia , and that there is a sort of loose ethnic alliance between them all.
In 2009, the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, funded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Yemin Orde Youth Village, south of Haifa, opened in Rwanda's Eastern Province. This sprawling complex of modern facilities includes a medical center, a gymnasium, computer labs and a sustainable farm.
"When I first learned of the terrible problem of orphans in Rwanda - a direct result of the genocide and its aftermath - it immediately occurred to me that after World War II, Israel had an influx of orphans but no longer has such problems today," says Anne Heyman, a South African-born lawyer who helped found Agahozo Shalom.
According to estimates by local survivor organizations, over 1.5 million children were orphaned during the genocide in Rwanda. Those who arrive at Agahozo Shalom participate in one of two programs: Tikkun Halev, focusing on art therapy; or Tikkun Olam, community service. While virtually all the staff are Rwandan, they have been trained by Ethiopian Jews who themselves lived in the Yemin Orde village, after immigrating to Israel.
"Each moment of life reminds us of the genocide," said Domitilla Mukantaganzwa, director of the country's grassroots Gacaca courts, which try mass-murder suspects out of doors, under acacia trees. "I organized the first burial after the genocide in this country. People were killed on every square meter [of land]."
In the Rwandan capital of Kigali, known as one of the safest, cleanest cities in Africa, police regularly round up street children, beggars and undesirables. While the ruling party preaches a healthy, vigorous multi-party democracy, critics say opposition parties are neutered and forced to go along with government policy if they want to participate in the political system. There are strict limits on what journalists can write or say. As the election nears, some say that the country is becoming more tense, and certainly more restricted.
"We forgive them now," says Bosco Habimana, a former soldier who fought with President Kagame's guerrilla movement, which helped take over the country, in reference to the Hutu. "But let them try again."
There is, therefore, a special sort of politics in Rwanda, with underlying messages which are perhaps unspoken, but are still powerful reminders of the past. The words "Hutu" and "Tutsi" are strictly banned; using them in public can mean a jail sentence lasting decades. Yet in 2008 the country's constitution was amended and now refers to the genocide as "genocide against the Tutsi." Now, that expression is bandied about on radio broadcasts, citywide billboards and newspaper headlines.
Meanwhile, the country is painted in national colors, patriotism has become part of pop culture, Kagame's portrait hangs behind desks. Under sometimes intense pressure, the president urges his government, and people, to stick together. And it's a tall order. While Rwanda has maintained relative peace in recent years, across the borders the aftereffects of the genocide are still being felt. The United Nations-backed hunt in Congo for the perpetrators, led by local military forces assisted by Rwandans, has thrown the eastern part of that neighboring nation into a panic.
Ethiopia’s Kechene Jewish Community
I had always wanted to visit Ethiopia and meet members of the Jewish community there. The closest I came, however, was in the 80’s when I met Ethiopians in Israel during the airlift and greeted them at an absorption center in Ashkelon right after they landed on Israeli soil. One of the perks, you might say, of being at the time executive director of Hadassah. However, a visit to Ethiopia itself never materialized. That fact changed in January of this year when several Kulanu board members, myself included, traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to visit the newly emerging Jewish community living in the Kechene neighborhood of the city.
When I first heard of the Kechene Jewish community, which calls itself Beit Avraham, I was intrigued. First there was Amy Cohen’s excellent article The Long Road Home in the Spring, 2009, issue of the Kulanu newsletter. Then, there was The Kechene Jews of Ethiopia, prepared last summer by members of the community who are now living in the United States. I have excerpted some paragraphs from the latter as a way to introduce them:
The Kechene Jews share ancestral origins with the Beta Israel and, like those Ethiopian Jews, most of whom are now in Israel, they observe pre-Talmudic Jewish practices. Separation of the Kechene Jews from the Beta Israel, however, began around 1855… (when the community moved from its traditional village homes in the Gondar region of Ethiopia south to the Northern Shewa region).
The community played a pivotal role in the establishment of the capital, Addis Ababa, providing crafts and manual labor. But despite their economic importance, they were regarded with distrust, fear, and at times, even hatred because of their Jewish faith. Faced with extreme persecution from their Christian neighbors, who called them anti-Christ, they lived as strangers in the region and were denied basic rights such as the ownership of land, which was granted only to those who accepted the Christian faith and underwent baptism…
…To ensure the survival of the community and its continuity to the next generation, and to minimize persecution and gain access to burial grounds from the church, the elders instructed the community to abide by the following rules:
Members of the community were encouraged to adapt outwardly to the environment in which they lived, including going to church.
Judaic practices would continue secretly…(In other words), the mode of religious practice was changed from open to secret.
Access was denied to outsiders in their quest to learn about the community. Providing information about the community was strictly prohibited.
Religious wisdom had to be passed orally from generation to generation. It was strictly forbidden to produce any written document until “The Day” when God favors the community and their true identity and their religious practice can be made public without persecution.
The Kulanu mission to Ethiopia was planned in response to these articles and to requests by some youthful members of the Kechene Jewish community to help them reconnect with the worldwide Jewish community. Kulanu’s coordinator for Ethiopia Sam Taddesse, an Ethiopian-born Jew, had recently retired from an illustrious 40-year international career working as an economist and had returned to Ethiopia to contribute to the economic growth and success of his homeland. Sam would plan and lead this important introduction to the community. For me personally, the trip represented a monumental history lesson and a challenge.
Here was a large Jewish community (some say over 50,000), who felt forced to live underground like the conversos (crypto-Jews) of Spain. Outwardly, they lived as Christians. But inwardly, they remained true to the faith of the Jewish people. Again, as in Spain, Jews had contributed to the building (in this case literally) of the country and capital city, but, at the same time, they were a despised minority and rejected for their religious identity.
I had the good fortune years ago to hear a lecture on the Jews of Spain by the distinguished Jewish historian Professor Yosef Haim Yerushalmi, who held chairs in Jewish history at Harvard and later at Columbia University. Dr. Yerushalmi spoke about the Spanish Inquisition and the conversos experience. He admonished the audience not to romanticize the period and to think that “underground” Judaism was the same as the free, open embrace of Judaism, only transferred to the cellar. “It isn’t about Jews sitting in the cellar with Shabbat candlesticks and a white tablecloth,” he said. No, the Judaism of the cellar was compromised, rituals and laws forgotten, observance difficult if not impossible to maintain.
Coming Out: A Visit to the Zimbabwe Lemba
The last couple of weeks have been one of the most momentous periods in the history of the Lemba people in Zimbabwe in many years. Hitherto if you went anywhere in the country and asked about the tribe, no-one would have a ready answer. Indeed the Lemba were practically unknown except to their immediate neighbors and a handful of experts in the ethnology of the country. However, this has now changed, and only time will tell if this is for the good or for the bad.
The reason for my trip was an invitation from the British Council and the Zimbabwe Department of Museums and Monuments to visit the country. I would give a couple of talks on my book, The Lost Ark of the Covenant, about the Ngoma Lungundu, a wooden object that the Lemba and Venda believe is sacred to their tradition and which has clear parallels with the Ark of the Covenant. In addition, I would speak at the opening of a special exhibition at Harare’s Museum of Human Science that would highlight this object.
The object itself was fascinating. Lemba tradition taught that the ngoma had been carried with them on their migration from the Middle East to Africa at some point in the remote past. The central theme of their oral thesis, recounted to me many times, was that the Lemba had come from a place called Sena, that they had crossed Pusela, and had come to Africa, where they rebuilt Sena, one or two times. The oral tradition also maintained that when they got to Africa, the precious object which they brought with them went up in smoke, flames and a dreadful noise. Using a plug from the original object, a new ngoma was built by the priests.
Years ago when I lived with the Lemba in a small, remote village, with no running water, electricity, or paved roads, in Mposi near Mberengwe, I heard this story and many others like it. The elders explained that this object was like the Ark of the Covenant — they knew their Bible — and that it too was taken into battle, that it was the dwelling place of God, that it was carried on two poles by the priests, that it was never allowed to touch the ground, and that it would strike dead anyone who touched it, other than the High Priest. I used to scribble away in my notebook around the embers of the fire, listening to the women sing and to the traditional drums, and I would dream of their long-lost ngoma. But I thought the idea of connecting it directly with the Ark was fanciful.
Tudor Parfitt viewing ngoma in Zimbabwe’s Harare Museum
Over the years a few things happened which made me take their tradition more seriously. In the first place, my own travels and research, as related in Journey to the Vanished City, put some bones on the oral tradition and seemed to confirm it. Then DNA research carried out in the labs of University College, London University, confirmed that Lemba ancestors were from the Middle East and likely to be Jewish. And most intriguingly, the Buba priestly clan, the first ones to leave Israel according to the traditions I had heard, had a particular genetic signature which was characteristic of the Jewish priesthood. Indeed, the Buba and the Cohanim shared a distant ancestor who lived somewhere in the Levant about 3000 years ago, about the time of Moses and his brother Aaron, the founder of the priesthood.
At this point I began to take the oral traditions of the Lemba with respect to the ngoma more seriously, and over the years, I came across a lot of unknown material which appeared to suggest that the Ark of War, the Ark made by Moses as detailed in the Book of Deuteronomy, and subsequently mentioned by Rabbinic authorities, had made its way into Arabia. It’s worth just pausing here over Rashi’s commentary on the Book of Deuteronomy:
At the end of forty days the Lord granted me, Moses, a favor, and said,“Carve for yourself,” and, afterward, “make for yourself an Ark.” I made the Ark first (before I took the Tablets of the Law) for, where would I have placed the Tablets when I arrived with them in my hands? Now this was not the Ark which Bezalel made. This was a different Ark. This one went with them when they waged war, while the one Bezalel made did not go to war, except in Eli’s time (Samuel 1, 4.), when they were punished over it, and it was captured.
And so my quest for the sacred object described in my last book, The Lost Ark of the Covenant, began. I knew that the ngoma had been found first in the 1940s by Harald von Sicard, a German-Swedish missionary. He had photographed it and placed it in the Bulawayo Museum, Bulawayo being the second city of Zimbabwe. However, when I went to look for it, it had disappeared. The Lemba told me that it had not been possible to leave the sacred relic in a museum and that it had been removed and hidden in a cave in the mountains of central Zimbabwe. My efforts to find it proved fruitless. But one evening by chance someone told me that during the civil war some ethnographic objects had been removed from Bulawayo and taken to the capital. There, 65 years after it had first been discovered by von Sicard, I rediscovered it in a dusty, rat-infested storeroom along with other old drums and artefacts, none of which had ever been exhibited.
The Museum authorities had now agreed to display the object. It was unveiled with great pomp by the Ministers for Home Affairs in the presence of other ministers, church leaders and members of the diplomatic corps. There was even a prophetess who claimed to have had visions that the Ark was soon to be revealed.
Apart from any religious connotations, it was intrinsically worthwhile. It had been radio-carbon dated by archeologists at Oxford University to 1300 or thereabouts and was said to be the oldest wooden object ever found in sub-Saharan Africa. But the Lemba tradition had maintained that the original had destroyed itself — according to them this was a replica of the original object, the son or daughter of some earlier Ark.
Having arrived in Harare, I was surprised to discover that the symposium on my book at the University of Zimbabwe was to be opened by one of the two Vice-Presidents of Zimbabwe, John Nkomo. What is more, half the cabinet was expected to turn up. And they did.
What was for me even more surprising was that the secretive Lemba were in fact in positions of great power in the country. I had been in correspondence with the Hon. Hamandishe, an Opposition Member of Parliament and a proud Lemba. So I knew about him. But it turned out that there were other Lemba MPs too. And there were even Lemba members in the cabinet, including the Minister for the Constitution, the remarkable, courageous and charismatic Eric Matingenga. As the day of the opening of the exhibition and symposium approached, it was clear that the Lemba had decided to come out of the closet!
When Vice President John Nkomo opened the symposium, he said the discovery of the Ngoma Lungundu had resulted in a lot of excitement and was testimony to Zimbabwe’s rich spiritual heritage. He added that the symposium would enable the people of Zimbabwe to understand the nature of the sacred drum as well as to explore its links with the biblical Ark of the Covenant. “The sacred object has now been linked to the biblical Ark of the Covenant,” he said. “This discussion will not only allow us to learn more about our ancient communities, in particular the Lemba community, but it should give us insight into the origins of the Ngoma Lungundu and its links to the Ark of the Covenant, the repository for the tablets engraved with the 10 commandments given to Moses at Mount Sinai.”
MP Hamandishe had asked me to bring some tallitot and kippot for the Lemba of Zimbabwe. Thanks to the kindness of some London rabbis, generous members of Kulanu, and some academic colleagues in Israel, I was able to bring a good supply of these items. At my first lecture, which was held in a packed hall in the Jameson Hotel in Harare, I was delighted to see dozens of Lemba. Many of them were wearing resplendant kippot, and had come from distant villages. At the symposium many more came, as well as a distinguished delegation from the South African Lemba. And among the many cabinet members present was Eric Matenga, who clearly and fully identified with his Lemba kinsmen.
“Matenga a Lemba? Lemba MPs?!!” people whispered in astonishment. The following day it was as if Zimbabwe had discovered a lost tribe. The story of the Lemba and the Ark were headlines in the national newspaper and the top slot in the TV news.
MP Hamandishe was delighted, but worried that the new visibility could lead to trouble. “We’ve been unknown until now,” he said, “but now we’re part of the political landscape in this country. I have one question as far as the outside world is concerned. Where are the Jews? What do they think of us?”
Reports in the Zimbabwe press were soon quoting Lemba lamenting that the Lemba religious and cultural practices were dying out. “It is unfortunate that some of us do not know much about our rich history,”said Mr. Nikisi, who was initiated in 1987. “But I am happy that despite pressure on our culture, the VaRemba (Lemba) culture has stood the test of time. It is one of the few in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole that is almost original.”
Another Lemba traditional leader, the venerable Mr. Zvinowanda, the tribe’s most revered circumcisor, who is proud of what he sees as his Jewish roots, observed that “some of us are marrying strangers. Some have converted to Christianity. It makes me sad.”
While I was there, I broached the idea of creating a Lemba Museum somewhere in Zimbabwe. The Brits were quite keen on the idea. The Swedish Ambassador too was helpful. There was one ambassador, however, who was conspicuous by his absence throughout the days of celebration of the Ark/ngoma. The Israeli ambassador was nowhere to be seen, either at the symposium or at the opening of the exhibition. This makes me sad. There is a community of very fine people in Zimbabwe who have every reason to believe that they have a special relationship with Israel. It can only be to Israel’s advantage to acknowledge them.
The Overlooked Beit Avraham
While nearly all Beta Israel have now been accepted and promised eventual access to Israel, there is a yet another Jewish community still hidden in Ethiopia’s highlands: the Beit Avraham or House of Abraham. Extending from the northern Shewa region south to the capital city of Addis Ababa, the largest enclave of Beit Avraham is located in an area known as Kachene, numbering roughly 50,000.
Although nearly analogous in terms of their history to the remaining Beta Israel, or Falash Mura, this community has been overlooked by Israel and the rest of the Jewish world. They have no known relatives in Israel at this time and have not taken significant steps to disclose their identity. The success of other Beta Israel at throwing off the fetters that have silenced them for years has given a small number of Beit Avraham the confidence to defiantly speak the truth.
“My one desire is to make my people known to everyone around the world,” said Aselef Teketel, artist and advocate for his community. Yet, the vast majority of the Beit Avraham remain silent, hidden, and even slowly losing their Jewish heritage. Silenced by fear, discrimination, and persecution, the Beit Avahram’s ancient past has remained a mystery and closed to outsiders, sometimes even the younger community members themselves. Similar to the Falash Mura, in an act of survival, the Beit Avraham hid their Jewish identity under a shroud of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity for centuries. Rather than completely forfeiting their Jewish identity, the Beit Avraham outwardly appeared Christian, while continuing to secretly practice their forefathers’ faith and Jewish traditions.
Writer and actor Feleka Abebe says, “My grandmother used to always tell me we’re Jewish; it’s who we are, our heritage.” Yet, for others, it remained a mystery. “We were so confused [as children],” said one young man. Community members shared stories of their parents attending church one minute and in the next going off to the countryside to practice some secret religion. Continually haunted by the question, “Who am I?” many began to seek out their true identity, and as a result discovered this “secret religion” was Judaism.
Science and the Lemba
The remarkable thing about the “priestly” Y chromosome is that Lemba men carry the distinctive trait in equal or greater numbers, according to Drs. Jenkins and Spurgle, geneticists from the University of Witwatersrand at Johannesburg, South Africa. They found that the Cohen gene is particularly common among Lemba men who belong to the senior of their 12 groups, known as the Buba clan (53 percent).
Some 9 percent of the other Lemba carry the peculiar chromosome. No non-Jewish group has been found so far with more than a five percent incidence. Kulanu supporter Wapnick adds: “When I was a resident in Harare, Zimbabwe, I noted that Tay Sacks, Nieman-Pick and other diseases prevalent among Jews were present in some of my black patients. I wondered then if they were of Jewish origin. The current genetic findings about the Lemba support this wild theory.”
The Lemba themselves have furnished other supporting evidence. Prof. Matshaya Mathivha, president of the Lemba Cultural Association, has spearheaded an awakening of historical consciousness and leads the effort to record the oral traditions of his people. One Lemba legend in particular has intrigued Dr. Tudor Parfitt, director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, who has done research among the Lemba for a decade.
This legend says: “We came from the North, from a place called Senna. We left Senna, we crossed Pusela, we came to Africa and there we rebuilt Senna.” To check the legend’s historical basis, he went off into the interior of Yemen to try to find Senna. The quest was successful. In his report, he says: “It’s very remote and had never been visited by anyone before. The local tradition in Yemen holds that centuries ago the valley had been very fertile, irrigated by a dam, the ruins of which are still there. And then the dam burst, they think about a thousand years ago, and the people fled.”
Recent research by Kulanu’s Lemba contact, Rabson Wuriga of Noordbrug, South Africa, traces their roots even further back into Jewish history. He found a map of the Judea of Alexander Janneus (103-76 BC) that contained a place named “Lemba” east of the Dead Sea, between the town of Medeba and the fortress of Macherus. With these scientific findings behind the Lemba claim of Jewish descent, it still is fair to question how Jewish the Lemba are by conventional standards. Several reports state that many of them are Christians.To deal with that charge, the Lemba must be viewed within their own environment. As Kulanu president Jack Zeller has noted, American Jews do many things that outside observers might say are calculated to get along with Christians. We go to Christmas parties, give Christmas gifts to Christians, and even eat with them from the flesh of animals not slaughtered according to Jewish law. Jews in America work on Shabbat and even change their surnames to seem less overtly Jewish. We draw the line that keeps us recognizably Jewish at going to church with Christians—unless it is to attend a funeral or a wedding.
Many Lemba apparently do not draw the line at that point. But that doesn’t mean their norms are wrong. Wuriga makes that case eloquently. “It is true,” he writes, “that many Lemba people became Christians, some voluntarily, many as a result of colonialism and imposition of Christianity as the state religion. Most of Lemba people are non-religious, but they practice many things one would call Jewish, such as what they are allowed to eat and what they are not allowed to eat; circumcision; and prohibition of intermarriage. They also value the remembrance of their ancestors because in mentioning their names they also mention places where they came from and stayed. To bring them to restoration, they need education—both formal and informal.” Prof. Mathivha sounded positively defiant when an interviewer suggested to him that the rabbinical authorities in Israel may not recognize the Lemba as Jews. “You can’t deny us the history and the origin. Many things were built up here [in Africa] and we have developed as a community here. But we are Jews from Palestine, whether the Jews in Israel like it or not.”
Fortunately, traditional Jewish communities in Africa seem more open to the Lemba than, let’s say, the Jews of Mexico are open to resurfacing Marrano families. For example, Betar South Africa—a youth group—has expressed an interest in setting up a meeting in Johannesburg with any young Lemba people who may be in town for studies or other reasons. Dr. Wapnick adds: “I’d like to pursue initial attempts by interested South African Jews to join Kulanu in being a support group for the Lemba. However, I believe the Jewish community in South Africa as a whole will only participate in welcoming the Lemba if they have a clear direction from their Chief Rabbi. The current Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Casper, has in fact been at the forefront of positive relationships between whites and blacks even during the preapartheid era. Still, in the end, acceptance of Lemba as Jews will have to be done on an individual basis by a Bet Din (rabbinical court) under terms of the halacha (the traditional Jewish legal code).”
Fortunately, with apartheid now dead, the government of South Africa has begun to restore land that had been confiscated from the Lemba, and plans are underway for a new Lemba village.
WHO ARE THE LEMBA PEOPLE?
According to oral tradition, BaSena/BaMwenye/BaLemba people are descendents of a group of Jewish traders who migrated from Judea into the Yemen many years before the birth of Christ. You can find these people in Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. There are ten to eleven lineages among the Lemba people: Buba, Hamis, Bakari, Seremane, Tovakare, Duma, Mhani, Haji, Sadiki, Sarifu, Manga. They came to Yemen and stayed in the Hadramaut area of Yemen. (I belong to the Hamis lineage.) While they were there, the Buba lineage was the one ruling at Sena I, but later the Hamis dynasty took over and ruled at Phusela I (Masilah). It was Hamis who led the community of these brothers to cross over the ocean to Africa. When they came to Sena III, in Africa, it was Bakari who took over the leadership. Seremane led the other part of the community in the interior of the continent up to Chiramba. When they came to Chiramba, Hamis led the other part of the community and settled at Gokomere (20km outside the town of Masvingo in Zimbabwe). From Gokomere, the leadership was taken by Tovakare, who led them southwards where they built the City of Zimbabwe with stones. The leadership was passed over to Zungunde who ruled for a long time. Here, according to tradition, Mwari (God) was dissatisfied with life of the community and dispersed them.
Traditionally, they were known for their gold, copper, and iron ore mining skills; they were also known for their medical competence. They were very good at trade. According to the author Tudor Parfitt (of the Department of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London), in his book, Journey to the Vanished City: the Search for a Lost Tribe of Israel, the Lembas were the ones bringing gold dust to the coast to sell it to the Arabs and the Portuguese. This shows how serious they were in trade. Their prolonged stay in Africa led these Jewish men to marry African women.
AUTHENTICITY OF THE JEWISH ORIGINS OF THE LEMBAS
As we grew up, we were always told, we are Israelites or Jews or Lembas or VaMwenye. Hence in their gatherings, there is a statement which is mentioned, “Tinokumbuka varungunanguvo” (This is Karanga language found in Zimbabwe which roughly means, “We remember the white man who used to put robes.”) We were also told not to eat pork and many unclean animals which we found being mentioned in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible or “Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.” We also were told not to eat something that died on its own. We were also told not to eat something that is strangled. Whenever we are to kill any animal for meat, we must use a knife to bleed it. If something is killed by any person of our tribe not circumcised, our old people told us not to eat.
Whatever the Lembas were doing and not doing never convinced the world of their Jewish origins. They rejected the cheap conclusions which were made for them that they were Muslims, or proselyte Jews. Even the least literate or the non-literate of them all rejected any link with the Islamic religion, though at a later stage some of them were convinced by some Muslims who told them that they were Arabs because they were not eating pork. This has been a long debate. Europeans engaged in colonialism in Africa found these people there, and they categorized them as Jews. This was later rejected by some other postmodern anthropologist who dismissed the Lembas as people looking for a place to belong. It was like a search for an identity. We thank the living Lord for bringing technology to our aid. Genetic studies were done by Prof. Jenkins of the South African Institute for Medical Research, University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and the results of his research were published in an article in the America Journal of Human Genetics 59:1126-1133, 1996. The title of the article is “The Origins of the Lemba ‘Black Jews’ of Southern Africa from p12F2 and Other Y-Chromosome Markers.” Prof. Jenkins concludes that the Y-specific genetic findings are consistent with Lemba oral tradition -- that they are Jewish by origin. In May 1997, Dr. Neil Bradman and Prof. Tudor Parfitt went to Haramaut in South Yemen and collected 120 male DNA samples. The results were analyzed by Dr. Mark Thomas at University College of London, and some were analyzed at University of Oxford by Dr. David Goldstein. These results showed very clearly a significant similarity between markers of many of the Hadramaut Y chromosomes and those of the Lemba. The most striking of them all was that of the samples taken from the most senior clan, the Buba, were showing the Cohen Modal Haplotype, a distinctive genetic pattern on the Y chromosome. This biological signature is found predominantly among members of the Jewish priesthood, the Cohanim as you know better than I. One cannot have this mark unless your father had such a mark. From my background of world religious studies, I recognize that this pattern of paternal inheritance has preserved the Cohen Modal Haplotype as a potential mark for Judaism. With this short presentation I think you can see why we hold that we are Jews.
The Exile and Return
THE EXILE, SCATTERING AND RETURN OF ISRAEL TO THE "HOLY LAND"
The Lemba people never gave in to those who doubted them. They solidly refused to be identified as Karanga, Shona, Venda (the neighboring nations). In their national registration identification cards, they always listed their tribe as Lemba or Mumwenye. This was happening in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and in South Africa. In March when I went to see Prof. Mathivha, he showed me his old ID, which was written in the same way my father’s ID was written. What I am trying to say is that for the Lemba people, their Jewish identity, which was enveloped in these code names to disguise themselves for survival, was very important.
One of the curses put on Israel was total expulsion from the holy land, if they continue to break the laws of the most high. Ancient Israel went into exile a few times, but they were allowed to return. But in Deuteronomy 28:64, it says that Israel was going to be scattered from one end of the earth unto the other. This is repeated in DEUT. 32:26.
This means that Israel can't be in the land as of now as a sovereign nation. They are supposed to be scattered to the four corners of the earth and residing in the land of their enemies. As scripture has told us time and time again. Luke 21:24 says Israel will be led into all nations as captives and be there until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Those times will be fulfilled When Yahshuah returns. Israel is will reside in their enemies land, until that time. We are only being cast out of the holy land for a time. Prophecy says true Israel will return.
ZECHARIAH 8: 3, 7-8
(3)THUS SAID YAH; I AM RETURNED UNTO ZION, AND WILL DWELL IN THE MIDST OF JERUSALEM: AND JERUSALEM SHALL BE CALLED A CITY OF TRUTH; AND THE MOUNTAIN OF YAH OF HOSTS THE HOLY MOUNTAIN
(7) THUS SAID YAH OF HOSTS; BEHOLD, I WILL SAVE MY PEOPLE FROM THE EAST COUNTRY, AND FROM THE WEST COUNTRY (WESTERN HEMISPHERE)
(8)AND I WILL BRING THEM, AND THEY SHALL DWELL IN THE MIDST OF JERUSALEM AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE , AND I WILL BE THEIR MIGHTY ONE, IN TRUTH AND IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Right now, Jerusalem is not called a city of truth, and Yah is not dwelling there, it says that when Israel is back in Jerusalem Yah will dwell with them in truth and in righteousness. There is no truth (the laws and commandments) in Jerusalem, there is no righteousness (keeping the laws and commandments) there either.
This only means that Israel is not back in the land as a sovereign nation, they are in the land of their enemies being punished for all their sins (Amos 3:2). When the Hebrews return they will be the righteous nation that they are suppose to be. Unlike the Jews who are in the land today, the majority of them are pagans and Atheist. Verse 8 says we will fully understand and keep the laws of Yah, there will be no sinners in the land when Israel returns.
EZEKIEL 20:34 - AND I WILL BRING YOU OUT FROM THE PEOPLE, AND WILL GATHER YOU OUT OF THE COUNTRIES WHEREIN YOU ARE SCATTERED, WITH A MIGHTY HAND, AND WITH A STRETCHED OUT ARM, AND WITH FURY POURED OUT.
(38) AND I WILL PURGE OUT FROM AMONG YOU THE REBELS, AND THEM THAT TRANSGRESS AGAINST ME I WILL BRING THEM OUT OF THE COUNTRY WHERE THEY SOJOURN, AND THEY SHALL NOT ENTER INTO THE LAND OF ISRAEL; AND YOU SHALL KNOW I AM YAH.
When the true nation of Israel returns, we will be brought back by the hands of Yah (not the Balfour Declaration). Yah also says that we will know him when we return, (As I continue to point out, the Jews in Israel today don't know Yah). We will return to Jerusalem to worship the most high, there won't be a sinner among us. All of those true Hebrews who continue to deny this truth will be consider as one of the rebels and Yah will purge you out from among us. When we return it will be a second exodus like the one out of Egypt. (remember DEUT 28:68 said we are going back into Egypt with ships, this is a spiritual Egypt that is a reflection of the first Egyptian captivity).
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. There was a 1400 year migration from the so called middle east to the west coast of Africa. The first major Israelite empire of central Africa was that of Ghana. For nearly a thousand years, from approximately 300 C.E. until late in the 13th century, when the empire of Mail assumed dominance, Ghana the gold kingdom, was dominant in the tropics of Africa.
There was a constant flow of Israelites from the North Africa region as the Carthaginians established extensive commercial ties in central Africa. At the same time, Israelite movement from the culturally advanced centers in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and morocco, culminated in the fertile regions between the Senegal and Niger rivers. These Hebrews migrations went on with great frequency from about 300 C.E. and they continued with utmost regularity for 1200 years.
The Hebrews migrated up the Nile, passing Memphis, Elephantine, Khartoum and they turned west at the Kordofan in central Sudan. The main reason for the massive migrations was persecution. Those Hebrews were being persecute by Arabs with Islam, and Indigenous tribal groups throughout Africa. But this is also prophecy, (Deut 28:65).
We must take this to note when Abraham and his seed was promised to in heritage the land. He was told that the land would stretch from Egypt to the Euphrates river (modern day Iraq) Genesis 15:18.
Ancient Israel never dwell in those boarders, and the Jews in the land today are in a small stretch of land which are not the boarders mention in Genesis 15:18. So this prophecy in Genesis is for a future time, when the true Hebrews return, to their homeland.
DEUTERONOMY 30:1-5 “AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS, WHEN ALL THESE THINGS ARE COME UPON YOU, THE BLESSING AND THE CURSES, WHICH I HAVE SET BEFORE YOU, AND YOU SHALL CALL THEM TO MIND AMONG ALL THE NATIONS, WHITHER YAH YOUR FATHER HAVE DRIVEN YOU.
(2) AND SHALL RETURN UNTO YAH AND SHALL OBEY HIS VOICE ACCORDING TO ALL THAT I COMMAND YOU THIS DAY, YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL:
(3) THAT THEN YAH YOUR FATHER WILL REVERSE YOUR STATUS AS SLAVES (CAPTIVITY), AND HAVE COMPASSION UPON YOU, AND WILL RETURN AND GATHER YOU FROM ALL THE NATIONS WHITHER YAH HAVE SCATTERED YOU.
(4) IF ANY OF YOU BE DRIVEN OUT UNTO THE OUTERMOST PARTS OF HEAVEN FROM THERE WILL YAH YOUR FATHER GATHER YOU, AND FROM THERE WILL HE FETCH YOU: (5) AND YAH YOUR FATHER WILL BRING YOU INTO THE LAND WHICH YOUR FATHERS POSSESSED, AND YOU SHALL POSSESS IT; AND HE WILL DO YOU GOOD, AND MULTIPLY YOU ABOVE YOUR FATHERS.
According to these verse the children of Israel were going to be scattered all over the earth in all nations. They will be feathered, if and when they return back unto YAH the creator and do his commandments. This is what must be done in order for true Israel to return back to their land.......and in the coming years this is exactly what’s going to happen. Deut 30: is prophecy because it is speaking of Israel exile and return, before they even entered into the land.
THE VALLEY OF JEHOSHAPHAT
In JOEL 3: 1-2 It says:
FOR BEHOLD, IN THOSE DAYS, AND IN THAT TIME, WHEN I SHALL BRING AGAIN THE CAPTIVITY OF JUDAH AND JERUSALEM.
(2) I WILL ALSO GATHER ALL NATIONS, AND WILL BRING THEM DOWN INTO THE VALLEY OF JEHOSHAPHAT (YEHOSHAPHAT), AND WILL PLEAD WITH THEM THERE FOR MY PEOPLE AND FOR MY HERITAGE ISRAEL, WHOM THEY HAVE SCATTERED AMONG THE NATIONS, AND PARTED MY LAND.
This verse says that when Yah bring back Judah (Yahudah and Jerusalem) from captivity, He will also bring all nations to the valley of JEHOSHAPHAT or valley of decision, and plead with them. AND NOTICE THE REASONS WHY HE WILL PLEAD WITH THEM 1. Because they scattered Israel and 2. because they HAVE PARTED HIS LAND WHICH IS THE LAND OF ISRAEL. This is the main fight in the land today. Who gets this much land and who gets that much land, The Arabs want this much of the land, The Jews want that much and so on. They have parted the father's land according to their own evil heart's and desires.
The Arabs, Jews and Christians all have had a hand in our scattering and these are the ones now parting the land. Yah said he would plead with them for these two reason (scattering his people and parting his land)
Before true righteous Israel and those other Nations who will become partakers of the covenant. Can enter back into the land, the land will have to be cleanse first as it is written in
NUMBERS 35:33: SO YOU SHALL NOT POLLUTE THE LAND WHEREIN YOU ARE; FOR BLOOD IT DEFILETH THE LAND: AND THE LAND CANNOT BE CLEANSED OF THE BLOOD THAT IS SHED THEREIN, BUT BY THE BLOOD OF HIM THAT SHED IT.
Jews, Arabs, Christians and even Israelites have historically shed blood in Israel, as this verse tells us in order for the land to be cleansed of all this blood shed. The blood of those who shed it is required, This is why in Joel 3:2 Yah said he was going to bring all nations to the valley of JEHOSHAPHAT, this will be pay day, this will be the "cleansing process". So all those who have shed blood in the land, will have their blood shed. Remember Joel 3:1 says at this time Israel will be returning back to the land, Zechariah 8:3,8 says that When Israel return Yah will dwell with them.
Yah is not going to dwell in an unclean defiled land / place. So when true Israel is back, the land will not be defiled with blood shed. Take a look at the land now is it without blood shed?? Have those who have historically shed blood, had their blood shed, so the land can be cleansed???? This is what is required for cleansing of the land.
ANSWER TO ALL THESE IS NO !!!! So Israel IS NOT and CAN NOT be back home as a sovereign nation. We are still in Exile in the lands of our captivities. Just as scripture said we would and should be.
Israel in Africa
In Rwanda, 'Jewish' has mysteriously ended up becoming shorthand for 'Tutsi'
Much of the world came to learn of Rwanda in 1994, when the majority Hutu people went on a three-month killing spree against the minority Tutsi.
The genocide ended with the victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, formed by Tutsi refugees who grew up in Uganda. With the conquest came drastic change. A great many members of the English-speaking diaspora flowed in; mostly from Uganda, but also from Africa, Europe and America. The two words that had seemingly started it all, Hutu and Tutsi, were banned from public use.
It is how the country lives now, nearly 16 years later; with a heavy burden upon each individual to suppress at almost any cost the impulse to identify him or herself by ethnicity, or for that matter – because the two are so tied – recent history.
Other than historical references to the genocide and testimony heard in controversial local Gacaca courts, ethnic labels are unheard of. The government acknowledges that identities still exist, but an overarching nationalism is always played up.
So I was surprised when, at the tender age of 22, I arrived in this emerald-green country to find people treating me like a brother. I was greeted with a fist-pound and a touch to the heart by the money changer, who called me a fellow Jew. I took up dinner conversations with newspaper colleagues who loved me for being American.
But what caught my attention most were the references to Israel, the references to the Jews. At first it seemed obvious; as historical cousins of genocide Israel and Rwanda had a special bond. Like Israel, Rwanda had escaped genocide to become a shining example in a troublesome part of the world.
But the reference and affirmation was much more than historical contingency; it was, according to them, true blood. According to some historians and Tutsi scholars, the group originally came to Rwanda from Ethiopia in the 15th century. Although played down by the current government, the belief persists. To Tutsis, the genealogical lineage to Ethiopia connects them to a greater constellation including ancient Hebrews.
For people like Claude Bizimana, a former soldier who fought alongside President Paul Kagame, the link has become a useful shorthand.
"That's where the Jews lived," he says , pointing to a shadowy suburban Kigali home in the dark starry night. "Those were all non-Jews," he says, moving his finger all around. When he introduces me to his friends he begins with a familiar greeting. "He is also a Jew," Claude says to me. "Josh is an Israelite too," he says to his friend.
Genealogical proof of Tutsi descent from Israelites is impossible to find, but among the diaspora, survivors, and even at times the government, the association to ancient Abyssnia is common. The first person to remark on it – John Speke in 1860s Uganda – was also the first European to visit the Great Lakes Region.
That ethnicity remains hugely sensitive is clear from the reaction to presidential hopeful Victoire Ingabire's candidacy in this year's elections. After claiming that many Hutu were also killed during the time of the genocide and are not being remembered, she has been accused in the media of being an ideological descendent of the racist post-independence Hutu regimes that caused thousands of Tutsis to flee the country.
To a degree, the current administration's strict rules on expression seem to be working. Rwanda's economy was one of the fastest-growing in the world last year. It is one of the few countries meeting targets for the United Nations millennium development goals; it is one of the safest countries in the world and President Kgame has become a poster-boy for the developing world.
Most people who speak confidentially about the security situation in the country say the public ban on ethnicity is a necessary evil, but that it doesn't stop people from knowing who they are.
An Israeli ambassador to São Tomé Islands observed that the local descendants of the slave Jewish children are still a very distinguishable segment of the population recognizable by their lighter skin. They're also proud of their historical past & desirous to be in contact with other Jews.
Eldad ben-Mahli HaDani
"It was towards the end of the ninth century C.E. that the Jewish community at Kairwan in North Africa was aroused by a visitor from heart of Negro land with a stranged story to relate. Eldad ben-Mahli (son of Mahli) the Danite alleged that he was the descendant of the tribe of Dan. He related that his tribe had migrated from their Palestinian home so as not to take part in the civil war at the time of Yeroboam's succession, and were residing in the land of Havilah beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia. Three other tribe, Naphtali, Gath and Asher, were with them; these had joined them in the times of Sennacherib. They had an entire body of Scriptures barring Ester and Lamentations. They know nothing of the Mishna nor the Talmud; but they had a Talmud of their own in which all the laws were cited in the name of Y'hoshua ben-Nun (Joshua son of Nun) as he had received them at the hands of Mosheh Rabbinu (Moses our Teacher). Eldad exhibited a Ritual dealing mostly with the rules pertaining to the killing of animals for food. It was written in Hebrew containing many strange expressions with a slight Arabic coloring, though Eldad himself professed that he knew no other tongue but Hebrew, in which alone conversed."
Eldad the Danite
Hear now that in Sepharad (Hesperides or Spain) in the year 883 CE one Rabbi Eldad haDani (the Danite) came amongst the Jews there or so says Rabbi Hhisdai ibn Shapruth. Eldad had also been in Iraq and in Tunisia he was with Rabbi Y*hudah ben Qorash. The Karaite Rabbi Y*hudah haDassi says Eldad visited Egypt and returned to Ethiopia before travelling to the aforenamed countries. Read now what Eldad wrote to Jews of Spain in the 11th paragraph of his letter:
"We have a tradition from father to son that we, the sons of Dan, were aforetime in the land of Yisra'el dwellers in tents and among all the tribes of Yisra'el there were none like us men of war and mighty of valour. And, when Yeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Yisra'el to sin and made two golden calves, arose over them, the kingdom of the house of David was divided and the tribes gathered together and said, "Come and fight against Rehoboam and against Yerushalem." They answered, "Why should we fight with our brothers and with the son of our D'mar, Dawith King of Yisra'el and Y'hudah? Elohim forbid!" Then said the elders of Yisra'el, "You have not in all the tribes of Yisra'el mighty ones like the tribe of Dan". At once they said to the children of Dan, "Arise and fight with the children of Y'hudah." They answered, "By the life of Dan our father, we will not make war with our brothers and we will not shed blood." At once we the children of Dan took swords and lances and bows, and devoted ourselves to death to go forth from the land of Yisra'el, for we saw we could not stay, "Let us go hence and find a resting place but if we wait until the end they will take us away." So we took heart and counsel to go to Egypt to destroy it and to kill all its inhabitants. Our princes said to us, "Is it not written, ye shall not continue to see it again for ever? How will you prosper?"
They said, "Let us go against Amalek or against Edom or against Ammon and Moab to destroy them and let us dwell in their place." Our princes said, "It is written in the Law that the Qadesh, Barukh Hu, has prevented Yisra'el from crossing their border. Finally we took counsel to go to Egypt, but not by the way that our fathers went and not to destroy it, but only to go there to cross the River Pishon to the land of Ehtiopia and, behold, when we came near to Egypt, all Egypt was afraid and sent to us asking, "Is it war or peace?" and we said, "For peace; we will cross your country to the River Pishon, and there we will find a resting place," and, behold, they did not believe us, but all Egypt stood on guard until we crossed their country and arrived in the land of Ethiopia. We found it a good and fat land, and, in it, fields, enclosures, and gardens. They could not restrain the children of Dan from dwelling with them, for they took the land by might and, behold, though they wished to kill them all, they had to pay tribute to Yisra'el, and we dwelt with them many years, and increased and multiplied greatly and held great riches."
Having read this Ethiopian Danite's own hand written word, we continue on with the rabbis responsa. But first note that Eldad wrote on the location of all tribes. He said of the places he visited that Spain had Y'hudah; barbarian Europe had Benyamin; Yissachar, Zebulun and R'uven in Iran; Ephraim and M'nashsheh in Saudi Arabia; Shim`on and more of M'nashsheh in Iraq. He tells how Asher, Naphtali and Gath escaped Syria/Iraq after Sennacherib's death and journeyed to Eritrea where they fight with the people of the land "unto this very day". The sons of Leywi are also beyond the rivers of Kush.
Eldad first set out to visit his Hebrew brethren in Africa and Asia. His vessel was wrecked, and he fell into the hands of cannibals; but he was saved by his leanness, and by the opportune invasion of a neighbouring tribe. After spending four years with his new captors, he was ransomed by a fellow-countryman, a merchant of the tribe of Issachar. He then (according to his highly fabulous narrative) visited the territory of Issachar, in the mountains of Media and Persia; he also describes the abodes of Zabulon, on the other side of the Paran Mountains, extending to Armenia and the Euphrates; of Reuben, on another side of the same mountains; of Ephraim and Half Manasseh, in Arabia, not far from Mecca; and of Simeon and the other Half of Manasseh, in Chorazin, six months journey from Jerusalem. Dan, he declares, sooner than join in Jeroboam s scheme of an Israelite war against Judah, had migrated to Cush, and finally, with the help of Naphthali, Asher and Gad, had founded an independent Jewish kingdom in the Gold Land of Havila, beyond Abyssinia. The tribe of Levi had also been miraculously guided, from near Babylon, to Havila, where they were enclosed and protected by the mystic river Sambation or Sabbation, which on the Sabbath, though calm, was veiled in impenetrable mist, while on other days it ran with a fierce untraversable current of stones and sand.
Eldad, a celebrated Jewish traveller and philologist; who flourished c. AD. 830 890; to whom the work above noticed is ascribed; who was a native either of S. Arabia, Palestine or Media; who journeyed in Egypt, Mesopotamia, North Africa, and Spain; who spent several years at Kairawan in Tunis; who died on a visit to Cordova, and whose authority, as to the lost tribes, is supported by a great Hebrew doctor of his own time, Zemal~i Gaon, the rector of the Academy at Sura (A.D. 889 898). It is possible that a certain relationship exists (as suggested by Epstein and supported by D. H. Muller) between the famous apocryphal Letter of Prester John (of c. AD. 1165) and the narrative of Eldad; but the affinity is not close. Eldad is quoted as an authority on linguistic difficulties by the leading medieval Jewish grammarians and lexicographers.
The work ascribed to Eldad is in Hebrew, divided into six chapters, proba,bly abbreviated from the original text. The first edition appeared at Mantua about 1480; the second at Constantinople in 1516; this was reprinted at Venice in 1544 and 1605, and at Jessnitz in 1722. A Latin version by Gilb. Ghn brard was published at Paris in 1563, under the title of Eldad Danius - - - de Judaea is clausis eorumque in Aethiopia- . imperio, and was afterwards incorporated in the translators Chronologia Hebraeorum of 1584; a German version appeared at Prague in 1695, and another at Jessnitz in 1723. In 1838 E. Carmoly edited and translated a fuller recension which he had found in a MS. from the library of Eliezer Ben Hasan, forwarded to him by David Zabach of Morocco.