Of the twelve
tribes making up the Southern and Northern Kingdoms of Israel
(thirteen if one counts the Tribe of LEVI as a tribe), nine are
said to be "lost". (One of them, DAN, was found in the
Falasha Jews of Ethiopia in the early 1980s, and are now relocated
In the 8 century B.C., the Assyrians moved on the Northern kingdom
of Israel_ the ancestral home of the ten tribes plus the tribe
of LEVI. The Assyrians first enslaved and later scattered the
Ten Tribes. The record is clear: these Israelites spread, settled
certain regions, and remained alive. For an anthropologist or
historian, the proof of extinction of a people must be inarguable.
This proof does not exist with the Lost Tribes of the Northern
Kingdom of Israel ; in fact, the opposite is true.
But there is fascinating evidence that the Lost Tribes of Jews
do exist today. It must be remembered that Mosaic Law, the modern
Jewish Halachah, was dictated or written ca. 1100 B.C. With that
in mind, it must then be noted that the Diaspora of the Northern
Tribes is not to be confused with the original Babylonian Diaspora.
While not lost in the sense of lost civilizations, the accepted
meaning is that the nine tribes dissipated into the global community,
beyond recognition. The tribes of JUDAH, BENJAMIN and LEVI are
called by the prophet Ezekiel the "Staff of Judah";
the ten tribes are collectively called the "Staff of Joseph".
In the end, all tribes are reunited and the two staves are joined
once again. The 10 Lost Tribes are:
2. REUVEN (REUBEN or RUBEN)
3. SIMON (SHIMON)
5. DAN (found and confirmed, late 1980s)
6. ZEBULON (ZEBULUN, ZEVULON, a.k.a. brother to NAFTALI tribe)
7. ISSACHAR (a.k.a. YITZACHAR)
8. MANASSEH (MENASHE)
This list does not count the priestly and priest-assistant 'tribe'
Let us parse carefully the bare facts and findings:
1. According to accepted lore, King Solomon died 2,900 years ago,
roughly ca. the year 895 B.C. He left behind a son named Afghan
(Aván), about whom we shall later read more. The North
Kingdom consisted of the ten tribes; the South Kingdom was the
home of the other tribes, JUDAH and BENJAMIN. Most Jews today
claim descent from JUDAH, rightly or wrongly.
2. The kingdoms split and the Assyrians took the ten lost tribes
into captivity. It is possible the Assyrians reached Europe in
their march west. 722_721 B.C. are the accepted dates for the
actual diaspora of the lost tribes. By this time, many Jews had
been assimilated by the Assyrians anyway. Interestingly, Assyrian
friezes and bas relief show the Jews wearing full-sized yarmulkes,
a sort of ancient identifier easy to recognize today.
3. The Assyrians kept the Samarian (Samaritan) Jews that
is, the native Israelite Jews from the Northern capital city of
Samaria to serve in the military as charioteers. The Israelite
Tribes' capital city was Samaria; Jerusalem was the Southern Kingdom's
capital. In modern Uzbekistan, which was once part of the USSR
and is home to the great cities of Bokhara and Samarkand (which
is Uzbekistani for "Samarian City"), there is a Jewish
enclave still in existence, comprised of Samarian Jews. They live
mainly in Samarkand, which is named after them. This gives the
lie to the thought that modern Samaritans are separate from and
enemies of the Jews, for they are Jews too. Uzbekistan, which
lies precisely north of Iran, is a fascinating region, a prime
stop along the old Silk Road. It is a sort of stop-gap between
the Middle East and Eurasia.
4. NAFTALI apparently traveled into Iran and Afghanistan, and
was thought to have been lost there. Though the Naftalites could
be ancestors of a mysterious community of Jews living in Bokhara,
Uzbekistan, this is in doubt: Simcha Jacobovici thinks the mysterious
Bokharan Jews are of the tribe of ISSACHAR. But there are many
Bokharan Jews who do seem to belong to NAFTALI. The Bokharan Jews
resemble Polish or Bulgarian Jews, but could be early Sefardic
Jews. One known culture of people not mentioned, the ancient Nabatu
(Nabataeans or Nabateans) of Jordan, builders of the city of Petra
in Jordan, is not mentioned or addressed by Jacobovici. But these
people may well have been of the Tribe of NAFTALI, and their work
shows Jewish Greek influence. Jacobovici did find evidence of
a people known as Eftalites or Neftalites, whose kingdom spread
from Uzbekistan to northwestern India and Nepal from the A.D.
56 centuries. Oddly, at the very same time, a kingdom known
as the Afridi presumably the tribe of EPHRAIM ruled
parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan at exactly the same time.
5. NAFTALI (NAFTALI): the hidden Jewish past of Bokhara City and
Uzbekistan itself is deep and embarrassing, as Jacobovici discovered.
All traces of this history are kept buried. There seems to be
a history from the A.D. 6th to 5th centuries, of a Central Asian
kingdom known as the Ephtalite or Hephtalite Empire. It is often
named but has virtually no history_ but the name reminds one of
the Naftalites. Again, this could be one and the same people as
the mysterious Nabatu of Petra, Jordan. Most Bokharan Jews of
certain origin are now in Israel. Most of these Bokharan Jews
seem to be Ashkenazim. Quite a few Naftalite Jews remain in Bokhara,
though many are migrating toward Israel. They maintain that they
are of the tribe of JUDAH, and perhaps their own tradition should
be respected and accepted.
6. DAN: in the early 1990s, Jacobovici and Ashkenazi Rabbi Eliyahu
Avichail set out to research the last known locations of each
tribe, following the accepted historical routes they are supposed
to have taken. In the early 1980s, Jacobovici documented the plight
of the Ethiopian Jews, the Falshas, who have since been confirmed
as the lost tribe of DAN, and have been airlifted to Israel in
their entirety (in 1991). The Falshas, from the area of the Simien
Mountains in Ethiopia, are accepted as being the sole remnants
of the tribe of DAN, though there may very well be Danites among
the Lemba Jews of South Africa.
7. MANASSEH (MENASHE): near the Gaza Strip there exists a community
of Jews from the India-Burma border area, mainly from India, and
are assumed by Israelis to be Thai guest workers. Calling themselves
the M_n-mase, they are believed to be the lost tribe of MANASSEH
(MENASHE). Most of these people remain in Manipur, India. Most
compelling about them is that they are guerrillas, fighting for
an independent Israeli state in India. In India, the lost tribe
of MANASSEH (MENASHE) numbers 1.5 million or more. They have fought
for an independent Israeli state within India, and are much hated
by their neighbors. They look Burmese or Thai, and are regarded
as alien trespassers. They are aware that they follow Mosaic Law,
and once had priests (LEVI kohanim) among them. It is odd that
there are numerous of these same people living in Bombay
though identifying with the ZEBULUN tribe, they look Indian and
refer to themselves simply as bene Israel. Most compelling is
that they are aware that they are not bene Yehudi (Judaean) Jews,
but bene Israeli Jews. These Bombay Jews claim their ancestors
were shipwrecked Israelites who had sailed from Israel 2,000 years
ago; they carefully distinguish themselves from the Bene Yehudi,
whom they consider "descendants of Indian Jews originally
The presence of Chinese Jews in Kai-feng (see 9 below) made scholars
think that the tribe of MANASSEH (MENASHE) had also reached China.
The tribe of ZEBULUN (ZEVULON) is the brother tribe of NAFTALI
(NAFTALI). The Zebulunites known to exist today in Bombay, India,
numbering some 5,000-6,000, are probably one and the same as the
Menassehites. They have a special devotion toward the prophet
Elijah, and believe Elijah was taken up into heaven in God's chariot
from Bombay, India.
8. NAFTALI (NAFTALI) seemed to have reached China. In the city
of Kai-feng there exists a community of Jewish descent, known
today as the "Jews of Kai-feng" referenced simply as
Chinese Jews. These people are labeled variously as Ju-dai, Yo-da,
or Yu-dai, meaning "Jew". These Chinese Jews seem fully
Chinese, but many have Semitic features and sentiments. They ardently
desire to go to Israel, mainly because of their feeling of spiritual
isolation. Among the Chinese Jews there were many synagogues and
rabbis until the start of the cultural revolution. One old Chinese
Jewish man stated that the synagogues fell into ruin after the
community was scattered and the rabbis left. Another elderly Chinese
Jew, when asked if he was "Yo-dai" (another linguistic
variant), he replied in the affirmative, adding enthusiastically
in heavily accented English, "I am Jewish, I am Jewish!"
9. ZEBULUN (ZEVULON): At the same time the so-called "Nephtalite"
Empire was ruling central Asia, an empire known as Z_vula was
ruling in adjoining parts of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There is some speculation that these Zebulunites of Bombay are
actually Naftalites, though it seems improbable given the existence
of a Zebulunite tribal empire equal to the Naftalites tribal empire.
In light of all the Indian and Chinese Jews today, there can be
little doubt that at the very least, all these people are Israelite
Jews, sharing common stories and heritage. They themselves quash
the issue by simply insisting that they are bene Israel, Israeli
Jews, without further concern as to tribe.
10. NAFTALI (NAFTALI): Interestingly, the Jews of Bombay think
of themselves as descendants of shipwrecked Naftalites. Their
cemetery is just outside Bombay, with grave markers that resemble
Semitic ship anchors. Oddly, the graves have been shown to be
both Naftalite and Zebulunite. Thus the Jews of Bombay are tied
to the tribe of MANASSEH (MENASHE). Those of the community of
Bombay who have immigrated to Israel immediately moved to the
old lands once occupied by ZEBULUN (ZEVULON). There they congregate
at Elijah's Cave.
11. EFRAIM: Turkey, Iraq and Syria were once homes to many Jews.
Afghanistan (Avánestan) still is home to Jews. The Khyber
Pass (in Hebrew, Havor), well known as the only overland route
into the Hindu Kush and India, lying in Afghanistan and stretching
to Pakistan, is well guarded. The Afghani Pathan people, who call
themselves Puchtun, are thought to be Jews but are of uncertain
origin. The Pathan Jews believe that King Solomon's son Afghan
is their ancestor. Scholars think the Afghani Pathan Jews are
of the tribe of EFRAIM, descendants of whom seem most common in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. They themselves merely call themselves
Mosakhel, descendants of Moses.
12. EFRAIM: Puchtun Jews practice a sort of Judaeo-Islam religion
known as Puchtunwali_ it is clearly a stark Old Testament set
of laws. These Jews say of themselves that when faced with true
issues, they follow Puchtunwali and not the Muslim Koran. Thus
they can be said to adhere to Old Testament law, unadorned and
unsoftened. The city of Jilalabad in Pakistan is also home to
Pathans. The proper Afghani Jewish community fled the country
in the 1980s after the Russian invasion. Jacobovici, claiming
the tradition that EFRAIM and MENASSEH will lead the exodus back
into Israel, points out that the number of Jews and the number
of Puchtun in the world today is nearly identical.
13. REUVEN (RUBEN), GAD, and SIMON (SHIMON) as well as EFRAIM,
make their home in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The defeated Afghani
Taliban regime is made up of such Jews, who are of course practicing
Muslims. They do not like talking about their Jewish heritage_
perhaps they are too conscious of it. Nonetheless, the Afghani
Jews also call themselves Bani (Bene) Israel, "Israelites".
It is odd that these people are some of the most anti-Semitic
people on earth.
14. Afghani Jews in Israel live mainly in the city of Tel Aviv
today. They chuckle at the memory of the Pathans and the Mosakhel,
recalling that these groups thought themselves to be "more
Jewish than the Jews." The Pathans seem to be from the tribe
of EFRAIM and a few MANASSEH (MENASHE).
15. MANASSEH (MENASHE): 2,300 years ago, Jews in Afghanistan and
Pakistan were persecuted. They are absolutely hated there today.
Most fascinating of all was the discovery of Buddhist Law petroglyphs,
placed there by the Emperor Ashoka in the 4th century B.C., written
in Hebrew and Aramaic. It beggars the imagination: Buddhist Dharma
written in Aramaic for the sake of Jewish communities in Afghanistan!
It suggests that Jews were well known to the Buddhist Indians,
and highly regarded by them.
16. LEVI was never found as a tribe per se, nor were self-proclaimed
Levites found, other than the Ile de Djerba Kohanim (see 18 below).
LEVI is comprised of the descendants of Aharon, the 'brother'
of Moses, and his two sons. Levites are priests and priests' attendants,
and LEVI is certainly alive and well all over the world. They
make up a strong portion of any Jewish community_ even among the
Bene Lemba, in which the Kohain ("priests") are called
Buba. Thus it is strongly contended that LEVI lives scattered
amongst all the Jews, known and unknown.
17. LEVI: Off the coast of Tunisia on the Ile de Djerba (Isla
de Yerba), there was discovered an entire community of LEVI Jews.
They claim to be ritually pure priests, awaiting the day of the
shofar blast that calls all Jews back to Eretz Yisroel (Yisrael)
under the Messiah. Then they will be at the ready, eager to serve
at the restored Temple in Jerusalem. This Jewish community is
famous for its silversmithing, and is generally recognized as
the oldest Jewish community on earth. These Kohanim arrived on
the island after the destruction of the 1st Temple. Strangely,
many of them have Sefardic surnames.
18. ASHER was never found, nor even traces of its possible routes.
Scholars expected to find Asherite Levites on the Ile de Djerba_
that is to say, Levites accompanying the Asherites. None were
found that could be authenticated in any way. More thoughts about
the tribe of ASHER will be offered in the conclusion.
19. MANASSEH (MENASHE): Though the Indian M_nmase Jewish community,
the largest by far, was admonished by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail to
remain in India until the coming of the Messiah, they are pouring
into Israel. It seems that all these scattered Jewish enclaves
are anxiously immigrating to Israel- those who are able, in any
case. These self-styled Bene Israel Indians (and the Ethiopian
Jews back in the 1990s) comprise the largest number of émigrés
The tribe of ASHER, if any remnants of it exist, could be anyplace_
or everywhere. Tunisia, Morocco and of course Europe are suspected
as the most likely sites for the settlement of ASHER. The Caucasus
Mountains in eastern Europe is as likely a place as any for the
location of ASHER. Some scholars think the Sefardic Jews are Asherites,
though the Sefardim, like all Jews, claim descent from the tribe
In the Southern United States, from southern Illinois to the Appalachian
Mountain region, there exists a group of possible Jews. Known
as Melungeons, many of them claim Jewish heritage. They are a
perfect example of the trouble in hunting for old cultures; they
are so racially mixed that there is no possibility of tracing
their true origins without mtDNA testing for the Kohain (Kohen)
Modal Haplotite. (This mtDNA result is the only conclusive DNA
test to confirm Jewish ethnicity. It is found in more than 50%
of the Jewish population of the planet, as opposed to being present
in less than 10% of any other given population tested so far.)
Japan has long been suspected as a home of lost tribe communities.
The Japanese language has many ancient Semitic words, and Jewish
names, such as the surname Katsu ("Katz") and the given
name J_shuya, are common. Another instance is the Hebrew term
Kissu'i Rosh, meaning "to cover the head", which may
have been a sort of title for scribes and rabbis. In Japanese,
Hissui (Kissui) Roshi means "jade master".
Japan is famous for its indigenous, Eskimo-like Caucasian tribe
called Ainu. There has never been speculation about the Ainu people
being one of the Lost Tribes, but interestingly, they follow a
general code of conduct similar to the Jewish one, and the men
grow great, long beards. Most fascinating of all is the tribe's
name: Ainu, which sounds like the Hebrew word for "father",
avinu. Though perhaps ASHER landed in Japan, it seems more likely
that any Jewish blood in Japan is of the tribes of NAFTALI (NAFTALI),
MANASSEH (MENASHE) and ZEBULUN (ZEVULON). It seems ASHER is the
most divided_ and perhaps permanently lost_ of the tribes. Japan
must also be accepted as a possible haven for post-expulsion Sefardic
The Bene Lemba Jews of South Africa, scientifically proved to
be Jews, are comprised of nearly every tribe, including LEVI.
The Lemba seem to be closely related to Afghani/Pathan Jews, as
they share surnames with them, such as Tsadikki and Suleimani.
The Lemba Jews call themselves not only Bene Lemba but also "Israelites".
There is a cause to move the Lemba Tribe in its entirety to Israel,
but the Lemba prefer that the Messiah take them there.
Thus ends the search for the lost tribes of Israel. They were
there all along, well known throughout history and outcast for
their beliefs. Scholars and Jews themselves rejected these peoples'
claims to Jewish identity, and Christian explorers are largely
responsible for the revelation of many of these Jewish enclaves.
It is saddening that most Jewish scholars totally reject the claims
of these peoples' Judaism out of hand. But again, to counter the
old argument that the Lost Tribes were assimilated, we do not
have any proof that these people disappeared. Such proof is needed
before a blanket statement as to their extinction can be pronounced.
Prominent Jewish scholars view the newly found peoples as late-coming
moochers, seeking refuge in Israel_ or at least in the Jewish
community_ to escape persecution in their respective native lands.
Such scholars have stated that these 'lost tribe' Jews are no
more than outcaste people who cling undeservingly to the Jewish
dream. Perhaps the fear among Jewish scholars is that most people
on earth will one day be revealed to be Jews!
Nevertheless, scholars who reject the Lost Tribes are at least
willing to leave them in peace. They refuse to recognize that
the tribes are not at peace, since in their "native"
lands, they are as hated as any Jews have been. It is no wonder
they wish to rejoin their brethren. Those Jews who seek to assist
Lost Tribe folk are not helping. They are insisting on inflicting
formal conversion ceremonies to "bring back into Judaism"
these Lost Tribe peoples. And that is in itself a vote of no confidence
for the Lost Tribes peoples.
§The SAMARITANS, considered by Jews to be unclean, arrogant
heretics and excommunicated enemies of Israel due to alleged Assyrian
allegiance, continue to live and practice the ancient form of
Judaism in Syria, Israel and parts of Uzbekistan. The Jews claim
that today Samaritan practice is too Muslim, just as they outcaste
them originally for allegedly cooperating with the Assyrian Empire.
In Uzbekistan, they have, of course, assimilated into the general
Jewish population much of which was probably Samarian to
begin with: and Samaria was the capital of the Israelite Jews'
Correct history for the Samarians (Samaritans) tells us that the
city of Samaria, Northern Israelite Kingdom, was built on a hill
overlooking the main road to Jerusalem. The site was chosen by
the Israelite King Omri, who reigned from 876 to 869 B.C. King
Omri made Samaria the capital of the Northern Kingdom.
The Assyrian Conquest is related biblically at II Kings (17: 1-6,
24). The Assyrians replaced the Israelite Jews they expelled,
with peoples from other conquered lands. Nevertheless, the remaining
Samaritan Jews preserved the Samaritan Torah, allegedly an older
written version of the modern Jewish Torah.
After the Assyrians fell, Samaria passed to the Babylonians and
successive conquerors of Palestine. The Romans took the region
and renamed the city "Sebaste"_ the modern village of
Sebastiyeh (Sabastiyah) preserves the name. Today, Samaritan Jews
continue to follow their version of the Torah. There are few left
today, and these make their home near their ancient temple site
at Mt. Gerizim, near N_bulus in the West Bank.
What is fascinating is that Jacobovici found among the Pathans
and Puchtunwali practice the same kind of unforgiving Torah law
as practiced by Samaritans. It is this fierce element that causes
many scholars to misjudge the religious practice of Samaritan
Jews as being tinged with Islam, though Islamic culture has had
a deep impact on Samaritans in general.
The Jewish Historical Outline Leading
Up To the Lost Tribes' Exile
Events below cover nearly all of the millennium from 1,100 to
Ca. 1100 = Moses' time, time of Pharaoh Rameses III. Note that
the following books were composed roughly in this time, ±
100 years: Torah, Vedas, Gathas, and Avesta. This makes an inexorable
link between the Scriptures and religions of the Jews, Hindus,
Zoroastrians and Mithraics.
1000 = Prince Solomon builds the first temple. King David reigns,
but has been told he is too impure to build. He provides for the
building, but never gets to build.
Ca. 922-895 (?) = Solomon dies, David long gone.
722-721 = Assyrians sack Northern Kingdom of Israel, scattering
the Ten Tribes of the North.
600s = Assyrians die out, but Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon takes
Jerusalem, starting the Babylonian Exile.
500s = Jews in Babylonian Exile, by the Waters of Babylon [Iraq].
The synagogue/rabbinical traditions begin. Note also the following
Scriptures were composed at this time: Confucian Books, Tao Te
Ching, and the Dharmapada.
539 = Jews are freed by the Persian king who led the Babylonian
Conquest, and are allowed to return to Jerusalem. There they meet
the Samaritans, none of whom ever left. The second temple is started,
but Samaritans resent the Jews coming back and taking everything.
The Jews make war with Samaritans that will last to this day.
516 = The second temple is completed. According to the writers
of the time, it is a sad sight compared to Solomon's Temple, which
was totally destroyed, with pieces of it being carried back to
Ca. 500s to 200s = Existence of "Neftalite" (from the
Caucasus to Afghanistan) and "Zavulanite" (from Afghanistan
to Pakistan/India) Kingdoms. These are presumed to be remnants
of the lost tribes in toto_ but very likely not representative
of all tribes.
Ca. 300s = Emperor Ashoka, in making/distributing the Dharma stelae,
sends several written in Aramaic to the region of Afghanistan,
proving it was still a well-known land of the Jews at this time.
(One such stele was located by Jacobovici in the early 1990s,
and is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic.)
© Rev. Dr. Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F., June
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