Israelites Came To
The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel
In Afghanistan, Pakistan,
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,
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 has 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, Simeon, and Manasseh. 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."
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 them lived in the close area east of Euphrates River and others
moved to a place far beyond east of the Euphrates.
Lost Tribes of Israel in Afghanistan
The Bible mentions the cities of Medes, today's Iraq
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,
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.
As the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel
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
Pathans have custom of Kosher, dietary 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 Tefilin (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 Tefilin 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.
Lost Tribes of Israel Who
Came to Kashmir
and Pakistan where the
Pathans live, when one goes east, it is the State of Kashmir
in northern part of India
which is west of Nepal.
There are 5 to 7 million people there. Generally speaking, they have clearer
complexions and are different from the other citizens of India.
An Interesting tradition is passed down among the Kashmiri people regarding
their ancestry from the Lost Tribes of Israel.
The people in Kashmir perform a feast
called Pasca in Spring, when they adjust the difference of days between the
lunar calendar and solar calendar and the way of this adjustment is the same
as Jewish. Several books are published on this. The Udu language which is
used in Kashmir includes many words of
In Kashmir, various places are called with
Israeli names, like Har Nevo, Beit Peor, Pisga, Heshubon. These are all the
names in the land of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
The same thing is true in the names of people, male names, female names, and
names of village. For example, one of the tribes of Kashmir
is called Asheriya which is Asher, the tribe of Dand is Dan, Gadha is Gad,
Lavi is Levi. The Tribe of Shaul is the Hebrew name of King Saul. Musa is
Moses, Suliamanish is Solomon. And you also have the tribe of Israel,
the tribe of Abri which is the tribe of Hebrew, and the tribe of Kahana which
is the word for Jewish priest.
There are also 50-75 names of places in Kashmir
which are in fact the Hebrew names that ancient Israelites were very familiar
with. There is a place called Samaryah which is Samaria.
Mamre is Mamre, Pishgah is Pisgah, Nabudaal is Mt.
Nevo, Bushan is Bashan, Gilgit is
Gilgal, Heshba is Heshbon, Amunah is Amon, Gochan is Goshen,
Median-pura is Midian, and Guzana is Gozan which is a place name in Assyria
and the very place where the Ten Tribes of Israel were deported.
The name Israel
is very common among them as it is among the Pathans, and this name is never
used among the Muslims.
The history of Kashmir is shrouded in
mystery as is the history of other people in that region. Most Kashmir
researchers are of the opinion that many inhabitants of Kashmir
are descendants of the Lost Tribes who were exiled in 722 B.C.E.. They
wandered along the Silk Road into the countries of the East, Persia
and Afghanistan until
they reached the Kashmir valley and settled
The priest Kitro in his book, the General History of the Mughal Empire, said
that the Kashmir people are the descendants
of the Israelites. The priest Monstrat said that in the time of Vasco da Gama
in the 15th century, "all the inhabitants of this area who have been
living here since ancient times can trace their ancestry, according to their
race and customs, to the ancient Israelites. Their features, their general
physical appearance, their clothing, their ways of conducting business, all
show that they are similar to the ancient Israelites."
Among Kashmiri people there are customs to light a candle for the Sabbath,
have sidelocks, beards, and emblem or design of the Shield of David (Star of
David) just like Jews do.
In an area which is on the border of Pakistan,
called Yusmarg (Handwara), there lives a group which to this very day calls
itself B'nei Israel meaning children of Israel.
Many of the inhabitants of Kashmir say that this is the ancient name of all
the people of Kashmir. The two primary
historians of Kashmir, Mulla Nadiri, who wrote The History of Kashmir and
Mulla Ahmad who wrote Events of Kashmir have established without a trace of
doubt that the origins of the Kashmiri people are to be found in the people
In Kashmir there is a strange legend which says that Jesus did not die on the
cross but in his search for the Ten Tribes reached the Kashmir
valley and lived there until his death. They even point to his grave in Kashmir.
This is very much like a legend which exists in Japan
(Herai village, present Shingou village in Aomori
prefecture), where they also have the legend that Jesus came to Japan and
died there. They even point to his grave. It seems that sometimes the legend
of coming of Jesus and his tomb is born where the Ten Tribes are said to
In Kashmir, there is another strange
tradition of a small community next to the Wallar Link who point out the
grave of Moses. There is yet another tradition in connection with King
Solomon according to which even King Solomon reached the Kashmir
Valley and through his wisdom aided
the people of Kashmir by successfully
regulating the Jalum river. This tradition is also connected to a place
called Solomon's throne which is situated above the capital of Kashmir, Srinagar.
Isn't it strange and fascinating that there are historical and even
folkloristic tales of ancient Israeli heroes in these strange and exotic
These also strangely resemble the legends of Japan.
There is so called the grave of Moses on Mt.
Houdatsu in Ishikawa prefecture, Japan,
and also a legend says that many secret treasures of Solomon are kept in Mt.
Tsurugi in Shikoku,
is this phenomenon?
Lost Tribes of Israel Who
Came to India and Myanmar,
In the mountainous region which lies on both sides of the
border between India and Myanmar
lives the Menashe (Shinlung) tribe
which numbers between 1-2 million people. They intermarried with the Chinese
and look Chinese-Burmas, but the entire tribe is conscious of their Israeli
Recently, Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who is the president of Amishav, an
organization in Jerusalem for the search of
the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, went to Myanmar
and investigated the Menashe tribe.
Menashe people with Rabbi Avichail (right)
The word Menashe appears often in their poetry and
prayer. It is the name of their ancestor and they call themselves children of
Menashe (Beni Menashe). When they pray, they say, "Oh, God of
Menashe," which is from the name Manasseh, a tribe of the Ten Lost
Tribes of Israel.
According to the history which Menashe people say, they were exiled to Assyria
in 722 B.C.E. with other Tribes of Israel. Assyria was later conquered by Babylon
(607 B.C.E.), which was later conquered by Persia
(457 B.C.E.), which was later conquered by Greece of Alexander the Great (331
B.C.E.), when the people of Menashe were deported from Persia
and other places.
There Menashe tribe became shepherds and Idol worshipers. They were later
conquered by Islam and forced to convert to Islam. Because of their speaking
Hebrew they were called the Semitic speakers. Throughout this entire period
they possessed a Hebrew Torah scroll which they guarded with their elders and
Among them there were those who left Afghanistan
and migrated eastward until they reached the area of the Tibetan-Chinese
border. From there they continued into China
following the Wei River
until they reach the central China,
They settled there at about 231 B.C.E..
But the Chinese were cruel to them and made them as slaves. Some of them
escaped and lived in caves in the mountainous areas called Shinlung, which
became another name for the tribe of Menashe. They are also called the cave
people or the mountain people.
Menashe people lived in caves in poverty for about two generations but they
still kept the Torah scroll with them. But they started to assimilate and
have Chinese influences. Later they were banished from their cave area and
went west through Thailand
and eventually reached the area in Myanmar.
There they wandered along the river until they reached Mandaley. From there
they reached the Chin
Mountains. In the 18th
century a part of them migrated to Manipur and Mizoram which are in
Generally, they maintained the tradition about their wandering and they
realized that they were not Chinese even though they spoke the local
They call them themselves Lusi which means the Ten Tribe ("Lu"
means tribes, and "si" means ten).
According to the history which Menashe people state, when they were banished
from their cave area they lost their Torah scroll when or perhaps it was
stolen or burnt by the Chinese. But the priests of the tribe of Menashe
continued to hand down their tradition orally including their ritual
observances until the 19th century.
They had kept the custom of circumcision, which when it became difficult was
no longer practiced but they blessed the child in a special ceremony on the
8th day. They also had holy days which were very similar to the Jewish days.
The following poem accompanied them throughout their migrations. It is a
traditional song about the crossing of the Red Sea
which was written by their ancestors. This is the English translation:
We must keep the Passover feast
Because we crossed the Red Sea by dry land
At night we crossed with a fire
And By day with a cloud
Enemies pursued us with chariots
And the sea swallowed them up
And used them as food for the fish
And when we were thirsty
We received water from the rock
This content is similar to the experience of Israelites
written in Exodus. The people of Menashe call their God Y'wa, which is the
same as Biblical God's name Yah, or Yahweh.
In every village they had a priest whose name was always Aaron, the brother
of Moses and the first Jewish priest. One of his duties was to watch over the
The priest wore a tunic and a breastplate and an embroidered coat fastened
with a belt and a crown on his head. And they always sang about Menashe at
the beginning of each gathering.
Rabbi Tokayer says that he met this group in the jungles of Burma
in 1963 or 1964 and he can describe their offerings and sacrifices as exactly
the same as was offered in the Bible.
Recently a return to Judaism began. Several thousand people of Menashe
decided to observe the laws of the Torah and returned to Judaism. They have
synagogues in Manipur, Assam,
and Mizoram. There are also those who immigrated to Israel.
Thousands long for returning to Israel.
Lost Tribes of Israel Who
Came to China
In the mountainous area of northwest China, west of the
Min River, near the border of Tibet, in Szechuan lives the ancient people
called by the Chinese, Chiang or Chiang-Min, who numbers about 250 thousand
In 1937, a book was published entitled, China's First Missionaries,
subtitled, Ancient Israelites, by Rev. Thomas Torrance, who was a missionary
in this area of China and was the first to write about this tribe and what he
believed to be their ancient roots of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
According to the reports by Torrance, he
believed that the customs, rituals, modes of thought, domestic and religious
practices of the Israelites who were the contemporaries of Amos, Hosea and
Elijah, were found within the Chiang people of northwestern China.
Torrance was basically very impressed with
the simple monotheism of this people in China
in an area where the term God was not even known.
The language of the Chiang tribe had been forgotten and they had also lost
their ancient script. Today they speak Chinese.
They themselves see themselves as immigrants from the west who reached this
area after a journey of three years three months. The Chinese treated them as
Barbarians, while Chiang people related to the Chinese as idol worshipers.
Chiang Min people (Photo: Thomas Torrance in 1920's)
Hate and enmity existed between the Chinese and this
tribe for a long time. They lived independently until the middle of the 18th
century when they became part of the general population to earn more freedom.
The religious pressure from the Chinese, the spread of Christianity, and the
influence of intermarriage caused the Chiang tribe to generally and greatly
give up their special monotheistic way of life.
However it is still possible even today to learn about the past traditions of
the Chiang tribe through their customs and their faith which they still keep.
This tribe had been living a special Israeli way of life since the time of
According to their tradition, the Chiang tribe is the descendant of Abraham
and their forefather had 12 sons. Those among them who did not take Chinese
wives after their victory in war still look Semitic.
They believe in one God whom they call Abachi meaning the father of heaven,
or Mabichu, the spirit of heaven, or also Tian, heaven. As a result of
Chinese influences they all call Him God of the mountains as the mountains
are the central place for worship of God.
Their concept of God is that of an all powerful God who watches over the
entire world, judges the world fairly, rewards the righteous, and punishes
the wicked. This God gives them the opportunity to do repentance and to gain
atonement for their actions. In times of trouble, they call God in the name
of "Yawei", the same as Yahweh.
They also believe in spirits and demons and they are forbidden to worship
them, but this is probably a Chinese influence. In the past they had written
scrolls of parchment and also books but today they only have oral traditions.
They themselves do not understand the prayers that they recite every week.
The Chiang tribe lives a very special way of life based on the offering of
animal sacrifices which seems to have been seen among the Ten Tribes of
Israel. It is forbidden to worship statues or foreign gods and anyone who
offers a sacrifice to another god faces the death penalty.
These priests wear clean white clothes and perform the sacrifices in a state
of purity as the priests in ancient Israel
did (1 Samuel 15:27). I recall that Japanese Shinto priests also wear clean
white clothes at holy events.
A priest of Chiang Min tribe (Photo: Torrance in 1920's)
The priest of the Chiang tribe wears a special head
turban. The priest is ordained in a special ceremony in which sacrifices are
also offered. Unmarried men may not be a priest, which was the same in
(Leviticus 21:7, 13).
The altar itself is built of earth which is molded into stones which are then
laid one on top of the other without being cut of fashioned by any tool of
metal. It is important to remember that in the Torah, the ancient altar could
not be made of cut stones (Exodus 20:25), since the sword or whatever tool to
be used to cut the stone was also an instrument of war and harm.
The main part of the service is performed at night perhaps to conceal it from
other Chinese or because of the special effect of the silence and the
tranquility of night. This was also ancient Israeli tradition. It is
interesting that the important rituals of Japanese Shinto religion are also
performed at night.
Before the offering of sacrifices, one is required to wash one's self and
one's clothing and to dress in clean garments. Sacrificial animals themselves
must be washed and purified. There is a special place for purification and
washing. The elders and priest place their hands on the head of the sacrifice
which is to be slaughtered then offer their prayers.
Circumcision is not performed. It seems to have become obsolete. But after
the 7th day or at the eve of the 40th day of the child's life, a white
rooster is slaughtered in the child's honor and he is given a name.
Jewish Communities in Kaifeng,
As I mentioned before, Menashe people once went to the
region near Kaifeng, China.
The Jewish community in Kaifeng
is most famous as the very ancient one which had existed since the time of
Kaifeng was the former capital for several
dynasties in China.
The Jews there did not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the
thigh, which is a custom of Israelites, and their religion was called by the
name meaning this.
There are still a few thousand Jews in Kaifeng.
They had maintained some Jewish tradition. In Kaifeng
they had a synagogue. They intermarried with the Chinese and look Chinese.
We can trace the history of Israelites in China
to very ancient times. According to a stone monument in Kaifeng,
Israelites already came to Kaifeng
in 231 B.C.E.. Many Israelites or Jews lived in parts of China
even before the destruction of Jerusalem
in 70 C.E..
Lost Tribes of Israel
Went East Along the Silk Road
I have mentioned above about the people of the Yusufzai
and the Pathans in Afghanistan
and Pakistan, the people
of Kashmir, the Menashe tribe in India
and Myanmar, and the
Chiang (Chiang-Min) tribe in China.
These places are all along the Silk Road.
Are these all where they went?
Otherwise, were there any other people who went further east along the Silk
Where is the destination of the Silk Road? Japan.
Did the Ten Tribes of Israel come to Japan?
If the Ten Tribes came to China,
we must say that there is a strong possibility that they came to Japan
also, for next to China
But someone may think, "There is a sea between China
and Japan, which makes it
difficult to get to Japan."
However, it was not a big problem for the Israelites. Scholars say that
Israelites already traded in the time of King Solomon (the 10th century
B.C.E.) with India and other countries of the Mediterranean Sea with a fleet
of ships (see 1 Kings 10:22, Some of the words are from Sanskrit). Israelites
knew well about ships even in the times before the country of Japan
The Silk Road was actually Silk Roads
because there were several roads on the land and the sea already in the time
of B.C.E. The Israelites were experienced people for getting across the