The Israelite Diaspora

The "Unknown Hebrews"

(Part I)

The Israelite Diaspora is mainly the consequence of the division of the Kingdom of Israel after the death of King Shlomoh the Wise. The Northern Kingdom, that kept the name of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, called Judah, have temporarily followed separate ways. Before the division, however, some Israelites had settled in other lands far away from Yerushalaym: After the Hyksos rule in Egypt, some of the Hebrews moved southwards and reached the land of Havilah, Ethiopia and perhaps other regions of Africa. An important migratory flow happened during King Shlomoh's rule, when he organized the Red Sea fleet and established a fluent commercial activity with Sheva/Teyman (Yemen) and Ophir (India). The first Jewish settlements out of Eretz Yisrael date back to this period, and it was from Yemen and India that some Israelites, probably having lost their Jewish identity after intermarriage, migrated to different places in Asia and Africa.
We have already considered the inaccuracy of the concept of lost "Tribes" (see
History: Israelites in Exile and the "Lost Tribes" ) and the preference for the more realistic expression "lost Israelites", or better than lost, "unknown" Israelites or unknown Hebrews. In this chapter we briefly consider some peoples whose culture and heritage show amazing resemblances with the ancient Israelites, and the evident references to all twelve Tribes (not only ten) that some of them have. By acknowledging their possible Israelite origin, we are not ascribing them the identity as the Northern Tribes as opposed to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Such political division belongs to a well defined historical period in the past, and is meaningless to persist keeping such separation. All twelve Tribes plus Levi are represented today in the Jewish people, the One Israelite Nation, and in the same way all thirteen Tribes are dispersed among the peoples, having their original identity hidden or unknown.
It is true that the Hebrew Scriptures speak of the "House of Israel" and the "House of Judah" as separate entities, and misunderstanding arises when such distinction is regarded as related to the former two Kingdoms. The Biblical definition is not ethnical but spiritual, and refers to the loyalty of Israelites to the Mosaic Mitzvot (Judaism) and the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom (Zionism), regardless their tribal identity. Those Israelites who kept themselves faithful to their own identity as a separate people according to the observance of Torah became the legitimate heirs of the House of Judah, while the others that preferred to follow the "Goyim" lifestyle and did not keep their identity, are the heirs of the rebel House of Israel (that founded the Kingdom of Israel after having rejected the leadership of the Davidic lineage). The separation of both kingdoms was not strictly related to the Tribes, but only to their territories; in fact, the Scriptures and historical records attest that the inhabitants of Yerushalaym and the Kingdom of Judah belonged to all the Tribes, and that many people of the Northern Kingdom who observed Torah resettled in the Kingdom of Judah. Many others of the Northern Kingdom took refuge in Judah when Assyrians began to perform mass deportations, and others that remained were not even taken into exile. Indeed, the Scriptures attest that the Kings of Judah ruled over all the Tribes of Israel after the Northern Kingdom disappeared as a political entity (see references to Kings Hizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu in Dibre Hayamim II, chapters 15, 30, 31, 34). On the other hand, when Sennakherib invaded Judah and besieged Jerusalem without success, he returned back to Assyria carrying more than 200 thousand captives from Judah, consequently, the Assyrian exile concerned both Kingdoms and all the Tribes, not only the Northern ones. About 120 years later, also the inhabitants of Judah were taken into exile in Babylon.
After the fall of Babylon, the Persian kings allowed all Israelites, regardless their former status as Northern or Southern, and without tribal distinction, to return back to Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, only a reduced number of them resettled back in their homeland. The majority of the Jews preferred to stay in their new country. Indeed, Babylon became the main Jewish cultural centre of the Middle East.
The historian Josephus confirms that the vast majority of Jews chose to remain in Asia rather than join the pioneers who rebuilt Yerushalaym. He records that Jews came from all over the Parthian empire to attend the Jewish celebrations in Yerushalaym, and that when the festivals were over, most of the multitude returned to "their own countries" (the different regions were they were settled).
The Megillah of Esther attests that the Jews were so numerous and dispersed throughout the empire that any decree concerning them had to be sent to all 127 Persian provinces, from India to Ethiopia. The account in Esther 8:17 records that in that time in the Persian Empire "many of the people of the land became Jews". This implies that many of the original Israelites that by that time had lost their Jewish lifestyle (mainly those of the Assyrian deportations) may have returned back to the Laws known to their forefathers in the old Kingdom of Israel.
Therefore, it is unrealistic to assume that present-day Jews are related to the Tribes of Judah and Levi only, and that the mythic "ten Tribes" should be somewhere else. Members of all thirteen Tribes belong to the House of Judah, and in the same way, many others of all the Tribes are halakhically "Goyim". Even though there are peoples that may be ethnically of Hebrew origin, they cannot be considered Israelites unless they return back to Judaism - there is not such a thing like a "non-Jewish Israel".

It is important to make clear some patterns according to historical periods and the development of the Hebrew tribes and families, before and after the existence of the people of Israel as a distinct Hebrew nation.
Even though by "Hebrew" we understand "Israelite" or "Jew", the same term may be suitable to define a larger group, known as "
Habiru", that refers mainly to the Avrahamic peoples, a branch of the Semitic stock.
This means that, peoples having many resemblances and common cultural heritage with Jews may be descendant of the pre-Israelite Hebrews, and not necessarily from the Israelites in Diaspora.
Therefore, it is more accurate to include the peoples in a larger group rather than a more restricted one: for example, the
Hyksos were Habiru, though they might have been Israelites - this second possibility is suggested, but not thoroughly proven. The Roma (Gypsies) might be descendants of the Hyksos, they are in some way related to Israelites, but it is more accurate to classify them among the descent of the Habiru.
Concerning the Roma, that are on the top of the list of the peoples likely having Hebrew origin, the author's research is exposed in a separate website (see
Jews and Roma). It is known that in later times they were dwelling in Northwestern India, from where they migrated westwards, and it is in this area where a relevant number of Hebrew-like peoples have been found. Some of them have been recognized by the State of Israel and have performed Aliyah (see Jews of India). Indeed, these peoples of the Indian and Turkestan regions are very likely of genuine Israelite origin, related to the post-exilic period. Documented sources prove that a large number of the Northern Israelites exiled by the Assyrians migrated beyond the eastern boundaries of the Persian Empire, namely, the Indus Basin, Rajasthan, Pundjab, and also towards the Pamir and China. Josephus wrote: "...the Ten Tribes who are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, whose numbers cannot be estimated." (Antiquities 11:2) The outstanding historian attested that in the first century c.e., the Northern Tribes of Israel were an immense multitude "beyond Euphrates River", this means in the lands to the east of Mesopotamia. How far to the east, it is not specified.

The Khyber Pass

The Khyber Pass is the best natural land route to India through the Hindu Kush mountain range. It is one of the most famous mountain passes in the world, with a long and often violent history. It has been not only a major trade route for centuries, but also an entry point for conquering armies carrying on their invasions. A very interesting curiosity is that "Khyber" seems to be a Hebrew name: its meaning is related to the Hebrew root chet-bet-resh, the verb "to connect", "to couple", "to join", implying also partnership, junction, intimate union. Even though this term may not be Hebrew, no other possible etymology has yet been found. How did a Hebrew name be applied to such an important place in the gates of India?


Kashmir, a valley surrounded by high mountains and rich of awesome sightseeing, is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world.
This country is inhabited by different ethnic groups: Kashmiris, Gujjars, Bakarwals, Dards, Ladakhis, Dogras, Hanjis, etc. The Kashmiris are known to be immigrated in the valley from the west in different periods, showing evidence of having been in contact also with the Greek culture. In general, they are different from the other peoples of India, having clearer complexions and remarkable intellectual qualities, as well as efficiency in business. Kashmiris traditionally trace their ancestry from the so-called "Lost Tribes" of Israel. This tradition is supported by extensive literature written by both the people of Kashmir and other scholars. The main elements that support the hypothesis that Kashmiris are descendants of Israelites are: 1) cultural features and traditions; 2) geographical names; 3) historical records.
1) Cultural features and traditions: Even though most Kashmiris are Muslims, they feel a particular attraction and sympathy towards Jews and the Israeli nation, of whom they claim to be descendants. Indeed, the name Israel - never used by Muslims - is very common among them. They have the "Magen David" as their emblem, and men usually have Jewish-style beard and side-locks. Kashmiris light a candle for the Shabbath, and celebrate in Spring a festival that they call Paskha; in this period they adjust their lunar calendar with the solar year, and the way they do it is similar to the Jewish system. Even their language has many Hebrew words.
Kashmiris' character, style of clothing, traditions and habits resemble those of Israelis. They do not use animal fat but vegetable oil in their food. The head cover of the old Kashmiri women is quite like the one for Israeli women. Kashmiri girls dance in formations in a similar fashion like the Israeli girls. The Kashmiri women, following the delivery of a child are considered impure for forty days, like the Israeli women (the same applies to Roma/Gypsy women). The majority of the old graves in Kashmir are aligned in east-west direction like the Jewish graves, whereas the Moslem graves are in the north-south direction.
There is a group of Kashmiri people that still today call themselves "B'ney Yisrael", meaning "Children of Israel" (different from the B'ney Yisrael of India, now fully recognized by the State of Israel as Jewish). They assert that this is the original name of all the people of Kashmir in ancient times. Indeed, the names of the Kashmiri tribes are amazingly very similar to the Tribes of Israel, and according to these names it is likely that they reached the Valley of Kashmir in different periods: one is called the Tribe of Israel, another is Abri [meaning "Hebrew"], and the tribe of Kahana [like the Hebrew word for priest], as well as the Tribes of Musa (Mosheh), Shaul, and Shulaymanish (Shlomoh) seem to indicate a migration before the Kingdom was divided. Other names correspond to single Israelite Tribes, like Gadha as Gad, Asheriya as Asher, Dand as Dan, and even Lavi as Levi.
There are legends and tales that link the Kashmir Valley to different events actually happened in the Land of Israel, or about Jewish historical people. For instance, a legendary site allegedly being the grave of Mosheh, and another claimed to be Yeshua's grave, that they say, reached Kashmir in his search for the "Lost Tribes of Israel" - it is very probable that one of his followers, perhaps Toma, who is known to have reached India, has been the one who actually did so.
Another tradition says that King Shlomoh visited Kashmir and after his wise counsel the people achieved in successfully regulating the Jalum river. There is a place called Solomon's Throne situated above Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Even though his personal visit to the country should be considered a myth, it is quite likely that King Shlomoh had any contact with the people of Kashmir, since he had a fluent commercial activity in India.
2) Geographical names: more than three-hundred places in Kashmir have names that sound very familiar to ancient Israelites, mainly to the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom. Some of these places are Mamre, Gilgit (Gilgal), Nabudaal (Nevo), Pishgah (Pisgah), Heshba (Heshbon), Bushan (Bashan), Medianpura (Midyan), Amunah (Amon), Goshan (Goshen, the region in Egypt where Israelites sojourned), Guzana (Gozan, that in Assyrian language is Guzana, one of the places where the Northern Tribes were sent in exile), and there is even Samaryah. Besides toponyms, also many names of people, male and female, are typically Hebrew.
3) Historical records: The history of the Kashmiris is shrouded in mystery. After accurate research, most scholars support the hypothesis that a consistent part of the Kashmiris are descendants of the Israelite Tribes that were exiled in Assyria in 3039 (722 b.c.e.). According to an Apocryphon ascribed to Ezra and other ancient records, many of these Israelites decided to emigrate into a distant country in the east. Along their route, many of them reached the Kashmir Valley and settled there.
Other historians' records: Kitro, in his book "General History of the Mughal Empire", said that the Kashmir people are the descendants of the Israelites. The travelling Arab historian El Bironi (12th century c.e.) wrote, "In the past, permission to enter Kashmir was given only to Jews". Another witness of the 15th century c.e. wrote, "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". The two outstanding historians of Kashmir, Mullah Nadiri, who wrote "The History of Kashmir", and Mullah 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 Israelites.
Conclusion: According to the above mentioned evidences, it is reasonable to credit the hypothesis that the Kashmiris are among the descendants of the ancient Israelites, though it is not possible to establish with certainty when did they reach the Kashmir Valley and settled there. The Greek influence that appears evident in some aspects suggest that they have migrated with Alexander's army in his campaign to the conquest of India and remained there.

Among the peoples settled in Kashmir there are also the Gujjars. Even though they may not be directly related to the ancient Israelites, their ethnicity is interesting and connects them with the peoples that have indeed been closely linked to the Jews.
The early history of Gujjars is obscure, and it was suggested that they may have reached India from Georgia in Caucasus (Gurjistan, in Persian). Place names like Gujar, Juzrs (Gurjara), Gujrabad, Gujru, Gujristan, Gujrabas, Gujdar-Kotta, Gujar-Garh, Gujarkhan, Gujranwala, etc. and other evidences show that they indeed travelled through Central Asia, likely from Mesopotamia, crossed the Khyber Pass reaching Rajasthan, and settled in Gujrat. In a later period, a consistent group of them moved northwards through Pundjab and settled in the Kashmir Valley.
The arrival of Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir is attributed to the outbreak of devastating droughts in Rajputana, Gujarat and Kathiawar, and there are archaeological evidences to prove this hypothesis. The Gujri language is now recognized to be of Rajasthani origin, and as it is not written, they have not recorded history but oral traditions.
Some scholars are of the opinion that the Gujjars are the descendants of Kushan (Yue-zhi) tribes; the most reliable sources consider them to be a branch of the Khazars that migrated to India. According to linguistic rules, the Indo-Aryan terms "Gujjar" and "Kushan" are derived from the original name "Khazar" through the standard rules of phonetic change: Indo-Aryan languages, lacking the "kh" and the "z" phonemes, transcribe them respectively as "g" and "j". Therefore, their alleged "Georgian" origin is in some way true, since the Khazars' early homeland was in the Caucasus.
Thus, it is interesting the fact that a people of likely Israelite origin, the Kashmiris, is sharing the same land with a Khazar tribe (see
"The Khazars").


The Persian Empire dominated a vast area of Asia and established commercial routes to the east. The Israelites in exile were allowed to move freely within the empire, and many of them settled in Balkh, an important city between India and Central Asia. Balkh was the capital of the ancient Bactria, that roughly corresponds to modern Afghanistan. This land was rich in camels and horses; Parthians widely used the Bactrian camels to transport supplies for their army, and Bactrian horses were essential for their cavalry.
The original inhabitants of this region were largely Scythian, but the succeeding empires that ruled over the land enabled colonization and the population became heterogeneous. Many Israelites were sent there as soldiers to keep control of the eastern borders, and even a group of Libyan Jews were deported there by the Persian king after a revolt in Libya.
From this background descend the present-day Afghans, also known as Pashtun. According to their own tradition (explained in different versions), their eponym ancestor was Afghana, son of Yirmiah, son of Melek Talut (King Shaul). Afghana is said to have served at the court of Kings David and Shlomoh after his father and grandfather died in the same battle. The circumstances related to Afghana lead in some way to identify him with Mephivoshet, and his father Yirmiah with Yehonathan. There is also an explanation to the origin of their ethnic name, Pashtun, saying that they are descendants of Pithon, who was indeed Mephivoshet's grandson (1 Chronicles 8:35). The Afghan royal house was well acquainted of these facts concerning Israelite history, tracing their lineage to the Tribe of Binyamin.
Nevertheless, the meaning of the term "Pashtun" or "Pathan" seems to have a different etymology, and the alleged relation with Pithon is to be considered a coincidence. In fact, the Pashtun are a complex ethnic group divided in different tribes, and not all of them share a common origin.
The Afghan people seem to keep memory of the secession of the Northern Tribes, as they themselves declare to be "Bani-Israil but not Yehudi", obviously meaning "Children of Israel, but not Jews". Two branches of the Pashtun people, called Durrani and Galzay, are credited as "Ibrani" (Hebrews), and are divided in tribes having names very similar to some of the Israelite Tribes: the Yusufzai (Yusuf-Si, Yusufzad), are the "Children of Yosef"; the Efridi or Afridi may be related to Ephrayim; the Rabbani to Reuven, the Shinwari to Shim'on, the Lewani to Levi, the Daftani to Naphtali, and the Jaji or Gaji to Gad. Following this pattern, it would be also possible to identify the Ashurai tribe with Asher, though other sources suggest they are descendents of ancient Assyrians (who exiled the Israelites). Indeed, the term "Ashura" in the Indian sub-continent is applied not only to Assyrians but also to Jews, Gypsies and other peoples coming from Mesopotamia. In this context it is likely that Asher became Ashurai in the same way as Yosef became Yusufzai, by changing "e" into "u".
An enigmatic statement is written in an Apocryphon ascribed to Ezra, saying of the exiled Northern Tribes as follows: "then they resolved to leave the country populated by Goyim and go to a distant land never yet inhabited by man, and there at last to be obedient to their laws, which in their own country they had failed to keep". Crediting this book, it was suggested that part of the Northern Israelites in exile actually decided to re-organize their nation and appoint the House of Shaul, their first King, to rule over them. This might be the main original stock of the Afghans and their Binyaminite royal house.
Besides the tribal names, it is important to consider: 1) cultural features and traditions; 2) historical records.

1) Cultural features and traditions:

* The Pashtun call themselves "Bani-Israel", and they believe to have been carried away from their original homeland.
* Jewish names such as "Israel" - never found among the Muslims - as well as Shmuel and the names of the Northern Tribes, are frequent among Afghans.
* Besides the oral tradition, there are also scrolls of genealogy that have been kept among the tribes, reaching back to the ancestors of the Jewish nation. These scrolls are well preserved and some are written in gold on doe skins.
* Their legal system, called Pashtunwali, (the Pashtu Law), has many resemblances with Torah. They have in great esteem the "Tavrad El Sharif" (meaning "Torah of Mosheh"), and they rise at the mention of Mosheh's name.
* The Pashtun practise circumcision on the 8th day like Jews, while Muslims perform circumcision usually at the age of 12 or 13, because of Yishmael, the father of the Arabs.
* They rest on Shabbath day, not working and not cooking either. On 'Erev Shabbath they prepare twelve "hallot" -traditional Jewish bread- (1), and an elder woman lights a candle in honour of the Shabbath. After lighting, the candle is usually covered by a large basket - perhaps, this might have been done in the origin to hide their Jewishness.
* They are careful about not shaving their side-locks, keeping curled hair before the ears in a similar way as Orthodox Jews do, in accordance to the commandment (2).
* They use to wear a sort of small "tallit", a four-cornered garment to which they sometimes tie strings or fringes similar to the "tzitzit", which is a Torah commandment. Some of them even wear a small box that recall the "tefillin" (phylactery).
* Many Pashtun people pray facing Yerushalaym.
* They also keep "kosher", dietary laws like those observed by Jews. Some of them do not eat meat and milk together, and make difference between pure and impure birds.
* Pashtun women keep laws regarding their period of impurity. During this time and for a week after, no contact is allowed with the husband. After this period, she immerses in a river or in a bathhouse if a natural spring is not available. This is exactly like the Israeli "mikveh".
* The "Magen David" is widely used as their symbol. A Pashtun property, either house or vehicle, may be recognized for this emblem shown somewhere.
* There is also the practice of sprinkling blood on doorposts and lintels, and offering sacrifices during pestilence.
* Some customs related to marriage: endogamous, the wedding is done at the bride's family. There is also the law of levirate.
* Honour laws require the avenger of blood, as well as stoning for blasphemy.

2) Historical records:

* The Islam Encyclopaedia, published by the Turkish Ministry of Education, considered to be among the most authoritative sources, states: "The Durrani and the Galzay tribes originate from the Ibrani (the Hebrew people)...And it is asserted that many others of the Afghan composition are originally of the Ibrani as well."
* The most reliable Persian historians said that the Afghans are descended from the Jews, and that since they embraced Islam, they cautiously conceal their origin.
* The Pashtun language shows evidences of a Chaldaic influence.

It is however clear that not all Pashtun tribes are of Israelite origin. The Pashtun are a complex ethnic group, resulting from different migratory flows. Nevertheless, the tribes mentioned above have enough characteristics to be considered partially descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

(1) Wayyiqra 24:5
(2) Wayyiqra 19:27

The "Land's End"

The Israelites in exile, both those of the Northern Kingdom as well as those of Judah, dwelled for centuries in territories under the same imperial sovereignty: Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian/Seleucian, Ashkanian (Parthian), Sassanian. These empires extended their dominion over Central Asia and the northwest of the Indian Sub-continent. From their original settlements, many Israelites followed the most natural route in those times in search for a better future: the Silk Road, that led them to the east, reaching lands as far as the Chinese shores of the Pacific Ocean.
The earliest Israelite migrations along the Silk Road began after the fall of Nineveh and before the fall of Yerushalaym under Nebukhadnetzar, during the short transition period in which the Neo-Babylonian Empire consolidated. This is the origin of Bukharian Jews, that kept their Jewish identity along history, and are in some way related to most Hebrew communities in Asia. Other Israelites in the same period may have gone even farther.
There is an apocryphal book ascribed to Ezra that, even if it is not part of the Scriptures and we cannot fully rely on it, contains an interesting statement that might have any historical background, perhaps transmitted by oral tradition: it declares that the Northern Tribes exiled by Assyrians decided to emigrate to a distant land never yet inhabited by man, and there at last to be obedient to their laws, which in their own country they had failed to keep. Their journey took a year and a half, and reached the land called "Arzareth". This land name does not exist, but there are some possible interpretations: the Hebrew words "eretz ahereth" (arz-ah'r'th) , meaning "the other land", or also "eretz aherith" (arz-ah'rith), meaning "the land's end" or "the most far away land". Such land might be China, or even Japan.
Also the Scriptures mention where many Israelites are to be found:

"Behold, these shall come from far away, and see, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim."

- Yeshayahu 49:12

The "land of Sinim" in Hebrew is no other than China!
When did Israelites arrive in China is still not possible to determine with certainty. We know that a relevant number of the descendants of the exiled Israelites wandered progressively eastwards, and that there was an active trade in those times between China and the west. To assert that Jews played no part whatsoever in this ongoing commerce appears unfounded. Therefore, it is feasible that many of them moved to settle in the outposts that flourished along the interconnecting caravan trails, as well as in way stops and coastal cities. Among the many possible Jewish settlements in China, a certain one is the ancient capital, Kaifeng.
Jewish merchants and their families from the west arrived and settled in Kaifeng finding acceptance of their customs and freedom from persecution. Thus started one of the most remarkable stories of a Jewish community that existed isolated from any outside Jewish contact. Completely unknown to the western world, the Jews of Kaifeng maintained a Synagogue, mikveh, kept kasruth and practised berith milah for nearly one millennium. Many natural catastrophes destroyed the city and after several rebuilding, the Synagogue fell into ruin after the last flooding in the 19th century c.e. There were no more Rabbis and the community became progressively assimilated. To this day, several hundred residents of the old Chinese capital continue to think of themselves as descendants of the House of Israel. They hold firm to this belief despite the fact that their features are indistinguishable from those of their neighbours, they have had no Rabbi for about two centuries, no Synagogue or other communal organization for several generations, and remember virtually nothing of the faith and traditions of their ancestors. Until today, the street on which many of them now live is named "The Way of the People that Teaches the Scriptures"; quite an unusual name for a small street in the middle of China. Today if in Kaifeng there are people who "do not eat pork", just because their families never did. This might be the proof that they really are descended from the Jews of Kaifeng...

There is also a people in the region of Szechwan whom the Chinese call Chiang or Chiang-Min. Their ancestral monotheism has been one of their most remarkable characteristics; they worship the "Father of Heaven", Whom in times of distress they call "Yawei" (HaShem).
According to the Chiang tradition, they descend from twelve sons of Avraham, and their ancestors arrived in China from the west after a three years and three months journey. The Chiang have some ceremonies similar to those performed by the Kohanim in ancient Israel, and their own priests follow some Levitic rules:

* Before the offering of sacrifices, they are required to wash themselves as well as their white garments.
* The priests cannot be unmarried.
* Their altars are built with stones that must not be cut by any metal tool.
* Sacrificial animals must be washed and purified in a special place for that event.
* The elders and priests lay their hands on the head of the sacrifice which is to be slaughtered and offer their prayers.
* The main part of the service is performed at night.
* The Chiang tribe still practises the sprinkling of blood on the doorpost as protection of the house.
They have other rituals and ceremonies, some of them include a white scroll or parchment, perhaps in remembrance of their ancient Torah.

Another people whose history has been for a long time developed in China are the Shinlung. According to their own tradition, they descend from some families of the Tribe of Menasheh settled in Bactria that wandered across Central Asia, China, Vietnam and other countries, until they reached their present land in Eastern India, by the border with Myanmar. The Shinlung intermarried with the Chinese and look Chinese, but they are conscious of their Israeli ancestry.
Indeed, their connection to the Jewish people is real:
* They have an ancient oral tradition regarding the Patriarchs Avraham, Moriah (an apparent reference to Yitzhak, who was close to be slaughtered on Mount Moriah), and Yakov. There is also a song written by their ancestors that accompanied them throughout their migrations, about Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea. The Shinlung remember also their father Menasheh in their songs.
* They used to perform berith milah with cutting stones in accordance with the Scriptures. Because of difficult times, this practice was replaced by blessing the child in a special ceremony on his 8th day of life. Now they are fulfilling the berith milah commandment again.
* The Shinlung priests wore a tunic with a breastplate, an embroidered coat fastened with a belt, and a crown.
* They have as well a sacrificial ceremony on an altar that recalls that of the Jewish Temple. In this ceremony, their priests utter the Name "Y'wa" (HaShem), and mention also the Mounts Sinai, Moriah and Zion.
The Shinlung tribe has the highest literacy rate of any national group in India, and at present most of them are following intensive Torah studies and are applying for Aliyah, having adopted as their official denomination "B'ney Menasheh" instead of Shinlung.

After having traced the Israelites' way along the Silk Road through Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Myanmar, China, we might consider the possibility that they went further east, namely to Japan. Of course, to reach Japan is not so easy, since it requires crossing the sea. However, this should have not been a major problem for the Israelites. It is proven that they were familiar with sailing since King Shlomoh's times, when his fleet carried on a fluent trade with Yemen, Africa, India and perhaps other lands. This happened before Japan's early history began to be recorded.
Anyway, the hypothesis that Hebrews actually reached Japan in ancient times would lack any support if there were not some elements in Japanese history, culture and tradition that suggest that they may indeed be among the early population of that land. Of course, it is plainly clear that present-day Japanese people are not to be considered of Hebrew origin if not in a very small amount. Israelites may well have been an original stock that was overwhelmingly outnumbered by many other migratory flows from different origins, yet, having left some important influence as to witness their presence in early Japanese history.
Scholars acknowledge that the Japanese language, culture and religion are very different from those of the Chinese or the Korean, and that the original stock of the Japanese people descends from a tribe of the area of Babylon that came to Japan. Successive immigrations of peoples from continental Asia have progressively re-shaped the ethnic features that resulted in the modern Japanese.
Some astonishing coincidences exist between the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel and the early Japanese history, legends and myths:
* The Japanese had in ancient times the lunar calendar (now replaced by the solar one), and before the 12th century c.e. they had the tradition of eating porridge with seven bitter herbs on the 15th day of the first month, beginning a period of prayer for good harvest for the New Year. This recalls the Israelites that celebrate the Passover eating with bitter herbs on the 15th day of the first month.
* There is as well a Japanese festival held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the old lunar calendar. On this day, the Japanese often build a booth, gather together there with family and offer harvest of the season. In the Northern Kingdom of Israel, on the 15th day of the 8th month it was established a feast replacing the Scriptural celebration held in the Kingdom of Judah on the 15th day of the 7th month, in which they built a booth, gathered together there with family and offered the harvest of the season (3).
* The stories related to legendary ancient Japanese emperors have many resemblances with the history of Kings Shaul, David and Shlomoh, including place names similar to those recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures.
* The Japanese priests should be married, and wear a white robe with fringes or cords on the corners. They explain that this is a tradition from ancient times.
* Some religious ceremonies like the offering of bread, liquor and other food presented on a wooden table are very similar to the offerings at the Jewish Temple.
* The Japanese purity rules state that the woman is to be considered unclean after giving birth, and would not carry the baby for the ceremony in the shrine. In the same way, those who have attended a funeral are unclean and have to purify before they enter their houses. The Japanese use to wash themselves before having a bath, like also Jews do before mikveh.
* There are some other elements that might or might not be related to ancient Israel, which need further research. Besides this, there are also some linguistic curiosities regarding several Japanese terms that have not any apparent etymology except if they are compared with Hebrew similar terms. Many words may resemble to each other by chance, of course, but it is less probable that also their meaning is identical. Anyway, it is known that language cannot be considered very relevant for determining a people's origin, since peoples can lose their own tongue and adopt another people's one, and also because all human languages have a common root. Nevertheless, the language contributes to support an hypothesis when other more relevant elements like culture and traditions constitute proofs.

(3) Wayyiqra 23:39-42; 1Melakhim 12:32-33

Source for the Hebrew-Japanese connection: Arimasa Kubo


In this chapter we have briefly considered the Hebrew Diaspora in Asia and the traces left by Israelites within different peoples. Now a question arises: How far to the east did they go? May Israelites have crossed also from Siberia to Alaska, and give origin to some people or else get mixed with other tribes in the American Continent? Might be, but until now not any real evidence has been produced; therefore, any hypothesis suggesting Hebrew origin of any people of the Americas is to be regarded as purely speculative. Consequently, leaving the Silk Road and the Israelites' route to the east, the next topic of this research deals with the Hebrew heritage in Africa.