The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Myanmar, and China
What Are Israelites?
Around the time of 1900 B.C.E., there was a man named Jacob who was the ancestor of the people of Israel. Later Jacob's name was changed to Israel.
Israel had 12 sons, who were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zevulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. The descendants of these sons formed 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 tribes are called "Israelites".
When they had territories in Canaan (Israel, Holy Land), the tribe of Levi did not have a territory for they were the tribe of priests. Instead, the tribe of Joseph was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and have their own territories. Thus the land of Canaan was divided into 12 territories.
Later, the 12 tribes of Israel experienced the height of prosperity in the time of King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E.. But after Solomon died, the united kingdom of Israel was divided into two countries: One is the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the other the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom is also called Samaria, the Southern Kingdom is also called Judea.
The word "Jews" is used basically for the people and descendants of Judea, the Southern Kingdom, but sometimes used for the same meaning as Israelites.
The Ten tribes of Israel belonged to Samaria, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They were Reuben, Gad, Ephraim, Issachar, Zevulun, Naphtali, Asher, Dan, Manasseh and (a part of) Benjamin. While the other tribes belonged to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
In the 8th century B.C.E., the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the army of Assyrian empire, and the Ten Tribes of Israel was led captive and compelled to march to the land of Assyria. They did not come back to the land of Israel. They are so called "the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel."
Josephus Wrote About the Lost Tribes of Israel
Where was the exact place of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel to be carried captive in Assyrian Empire? The Bible records:
"the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive to Assyria, and put them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." (2 Kings 18:11)
These places are located in today's northern Iraq or Northwest Iran called Kurdistan. The Ten Tribes of Israel were firstly compelled to emigrate there, and this is also a starting point of our research.
There is a Jew named Josephus Flavius, a very reliable historian who lived in the first century C.E.. In his book of history, there is a description about whereabouts of the Ten Tribes:
"...the Ten Tribes who are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, whose numbers cannot be estimated." (Antiquities 11:2)
Josephus wrote that in the first century C.E., the Ten Tribes of Israel lived as an immense multitude beyond Euphrates River. This may mean that some of of them lived in the close area east of Euphrates River and others moved to a place far beyond east of the Euphrates.
The Lost Tribes of Israel in Afghanistan
The Bible mentions the cities of Medes, today's Iraq and Iran, as the locations of the Assyrian exile of the Ten Tribes of Israel. It is an accepted tradition that the people of this area are from the Assyrian exile.
It seems that later, many of the Ten Tribes of Israel moved to the east along the Silk Road. We find the descendants of them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Myanmar (Burma), China and other countries, which are along the Silk Road. I will have a brief explanation about them in this chapter. The information is mostly from the books which were written by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and published in Japan, and "Beyond the Sambatyon, The Myth of The Lost Tribes" written by Simcha Shtull.
East of Iran is Afghanistan. There are so many tribes in Afghanistan with names that have Yusuf in the name as Yusufzai, Yusufuzi, Yusufzad, etc.. Yusuf means Joseph and Yusufzai means children of Joseph.
They claim their origin to be from the Lost Tribes of Israel, that is, from the tribes of Joseph, which are the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and are a part of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. They also call themselves Bani-Israel meaning children of Israel. Their tradition is that they were carried away from their ancient homeland.
Formerly they were shepherds in search of pasture but they gave up their nomadic life and settled into village communities. The people of Yusufzai live separated from the rest of the world by mountains and difficult rivers and it is hard to find them. They marry among themselves.
Today they are devout Muslims but have Hebrew names, wear the fringes which only Jews and Japanese Shinto priests wear, light candles for the Sabbath on Friday night which only Jews do (The Sabbath is from the sunset of Friday until the night of Saturday). They also have the custom called peyot (side-curls) which is to have curled hair of about 10 centimeters long in front of both ears. This is a custom which only Jews have and which may very well be of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
Pathans As the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, there also live people called Pathans numbering about 15 million. They live mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as in Persia and India. Most of them are Muslims but they have a tradition of being of the Lost Tribes and have Israeli customs.
According to a book written by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, the Pathans have custom of circumcision on the 8th day. This is a known Jewish custom, and is the oldest Jewish tradition. Rabbi Tokayer once told me that he had witnessed and been present at a very joyous circumcision ceremony on the 8th day after birth among the Pathans. Muslims have custom of circumcision but it is not on the 8th day, usually at the age of 12.
The Pathans have a sort of small Tallit called Kafan. This is a 4 cornered garment which they tie strings similar to the fringes (Jews call them Tzitzit) and is one of the oldest Jewish traditions going back to the Torah and it is a sign of their Israeli origin.
The Pathans have custom of the Sabbath, Israeli tradition of the day of rest. On the Sabbath they do not labor, cook or bake. The Pathans prepare 12 Hallot (traditional Jewish bread, Leviticus 24:5) in honor of the Sabbath as was done in the ancient Israeli temple. One of the significant indicators proving the Israeli origins of the Pathans is the lighting of the candle to honor the Sabbath. After lighting, the candle is covered usually by a large basket. The candle is lit by a woman past her menopause. This is the same as Israeli custom.
Pathans have custom of Kosher, diatary laws same as Jews. Pathans do not eat horse or camel meat, which is most common in their area but forbidden to Jews. There is some evidence to their not eating meat and milk together which is also an ancient Israeli tradition. And they have a tradition regarding differentiating between pure and impure birds which means permitted and not permitted birds similar to the Torah.
Some still wear a small box which Jews call Tefillin (phylactery) containing a verse of the Bible. This box resemble Japanese Tokin of Yamabushi's forehead, too, which I will mention later. This is an ancient custom of Israel. In the Jewish box there is the verse of Shema Israel, that is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4) This custom of Tefillin came from a verse of the Scriptures, "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes" (Deuteronomy 6:8).
It is interesting to note that the Pathans retain family names of the Lost Tribes such as Asher, Gad, Naphtali, Reuben and Manasseh and Ephraim. Among them there are people who are called by these names, which are of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. There are also people who are called Israel, Samuel, and so on, which are never found among the Muslims.
The Pathans were mostly called "Bani-Israel" meaning children of Israel even though they live today as devout Muslims.
The legal system which is known as Pashtunwali, the law of the Pashtu, is very similar to the Torah, which is the holiest Jewish book and the book of ancient Jewish way of life. There are pages and even complete books among the pathans and they honor greatly what is called Tavrad El Sharif (the Torah of Moses), and they rise at the mention of the name of Moses even though it is not important in Islam.
Besides the oral tradition related by the elders of the tribe, there are also interesting testimonies of keeping of scrolls of genealogy among the tribes, reaching back to the Fathers of the Jewish nation. These scrolls are well preserved and some are written in gold on the skins of a doe.
No less interesting and significant are the names of the tribes which bear close resemblance to the Tribes of Israel. The Rabbani Tribe is really Reuben, the Shinware Tribe is Simeon, the Lewani Tribe is Levi, The Daftani Tribe is Naphtali, and the Jaji Tribe is Gad, and the Ashuri Tribe is Asher, The Yusefsai Tribe is children of Joseph, and the Afridi Tribe is really Ephraim. These are the names of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
The Pathans themselves point out the differences between the original names of the tribes and their present names are because of the different dialects of the languages so that, for instance, Jaji was actually called Gaji for the tribe of Gad.
Women of the Pathans keep laws similar to the Jewish laws regarding menstruation. During this time and for 7 days after, no contact is allowed with the husband. After this period, the woman immerses in a river or spring or in a bathhouse if a natural spring is not available. This is exactly the same as the Israeli tradition going back to the days of the Bible.