Saturday, 17 April 2010

Bnei Israel in Pakistan

Research done by Mr. Qazi Fazli Azeem -

Around 722 BC, Israeli civil war and changing strategic interests forced Assyria to deport ten tribes to the east, towards Persia (Iran). A hundred years later, the Babylonians deported the remaining tribe of Yehudah and some Benjaminites to Babylon (Iraq). The Yehudah returned to Israel with the help of Cyrus the great of Persia, but the other ten tribes never retuned. The search for the “Ten tribes of Israel” is a very controversial issue because their descendants lost most of their Israelite traditions and do not possess the Talmud (Oral Torah similar to the hadith of the Muslims). Perhaps the focal point which has dissuaded Israelites from searching openly for their brethren is the Israelite civil war after King Solomon’s reign, which pitted Yehudah (Judah) against all the other tribes and eventually brought their collective downfall. Hence the descendants of the “Lost Tribes” have lived and spread in the lands east of Israel which are now known as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Burma and even western China.

The Pakhtuns have been living in the Afghanistan area for over 2,000 years. Their language Pashto/Pakhto borrows widely from the Arab-ized Persian of their neighbors (now Iran), yet it was a purely spoken dialect. There was no Pakhto/Pashto written script whatsoever, the first Pashto book appearing about the 1500s. Hence the traditions, customs, tribal genealogy and law orally transferred from father to son. The first book on Pakhtun genealogy, the Makhzan-al-Afghani was written in 1613, and contained for the first time a printed table of descent from Abraham to the Pakhtun tribes, through the tribe of Binyamin. While the book was not accepted initially by British historians, modern historians consider it the most accurate account as compared to the other theories proposed by classical historians.

Speaking on this Zionism topic alone is quite interesting...the word "Zionist" is created from the mountains of Yerushalim which are called "Zion". Similarly the language of the Pathan tribesmen is called Pashto, and its speakers call themselves Pashtun, from the Persian word "Pasht" which means "back of the mountain" so in reality Pashtun is a person who lives in the mountains. The mountains the Pathan's have been living in after exile are called the Suleiman (Solomon) mountains. The Jews/ B'Ni Israel from Russia also call themselves Mountain Jews and are said to be from the same exile.

The word Pathan is a Pashto written form of the original word Pathan in DTorah (Divrei Hayomin/Kings 2), noting their ancestor from the line of Sarul ben Qish, the first King of Israel, who was King David's father in law.

I wrote a book after 5 years of research that as yet to be printed. The Article below are a few chapters from my research manuscript:


Jewish Physical features

Data concerning the Jews has been collected from many sources and they may be said to be anthropologically well known. Most observers prefer to seen in the Jewish type one of the most persistent varieties of the human race [1]. Others say that the Jewish type varies in different places, the head form accommodating itself to the local variety of head form. They have unconsciously taken on to a large extent the physical traits of the people among whom their lot has been thrown. Boas has affirmed even more strongly that the head form of the Jewish immigrants to the united states alters in conformity with American standards, even in the first generation of immigrants; the physical effects of detention at Ellis island apparently having a permanent result on the Jewish immigrant population. Deniker divides the Jews into two types, one approximately to the Arab type and the other to the Assyroid. He admits that the types have been modified to a certain extent by elements from the populations among whom they dwell, but he adds “Even in these cases, many traits such as the convex nose, vivacity of eye, frequency of crythrism, frizzy hair, thick under lip, inferiority of the thoracic perimeter etc, show a remarkable persistence”.

These two views are then totally opposed, and some form of reconciliation is necessary if the evidence can be interpreted in such totally different ways. No evidence has been forthcoming to support Professor Boas’s interesting hypothesis, and it has strongly been argued against on other grounds. The evidence by recent writers confirms the stability and importance of the cephalic index, without perhaps giving it the only legitimate role as others have done. With a few exceptions, Jews from various parts of the world usually retain characteristic Brach cephalic head form, the mean cephalic index being 81. Those studied had a standard deviation between 3 and 4. It suggests that these communities which tend to endogamous remain in about the same state of ethnic equilibrium, although they are placed in different environmental conditions. Not only do the Jews retain their head form in the majority of cases, they also preserve other characters which Deniker has mentioned, the most noticeable of which is the form of the Nose. For some reason or the other the Jews have been able with a remarkable vitality to perpetuate a physical type which has, at least in many places survived. The origin of this type is of particular interest. It is well known that there is a marked resemblance between Jews and the Armenians, and although the Armenoid type prevails, there are clearly other elements in the composition of the Jewish race. Weissenberg suggests that the resemblance of the Jews and the Armenians is due to a mixing during historical times, not in Palestine but in the Caucasus. He suggests here that a blond Nordic type is introduced, with the result that there are now two types of Jews, the Semitic dark with a fine nose and an Armenoid with a course nose and an appearance of blondness.

Published figures suggest that the two types of Jews are really loosely fused together due to different admixtures. It is likely that a similar mixing has taken place among the Jews and the resulting index represents a composite figure.

Pakhtun Physical features: The Historians opinion

Racially, there is a considerable difference between the various Afghan tribes. The Pathans of Bajaur are closely related to the Kalashes of Citral, probably because they are to a large extent Afghanized Dards [2]. On the other hand the broad-headed Pathans of Balochistan resemble their Baluch neighbors. In the plains of Peshawar there is some admixture of Indian blood, and among the Ghilzai tribe of Afghanistan there are traces of Turkish influence. But in general it may be said that the Afghans belong to the Irano-Afghan branch of the dolichocephalic Mediter­ranean race [3]. The skull index is 72-75, and the average height 170 cm. (Hill tribe Pathans), and 163 cm. (Afghans of Afghanistan). The nose is prominent, frequently convex, of the "Semitic" type. Similar noses are found also among Balochis and Kashmiris. "The Afghans are usually brunets (black haired), but at the same time show a persistent minority of blondism, which may reflect some Nordic admixture. They are heavy-bearded"[4].

Pathan features are not standard like the Jews are not standard, however clothes, appearance and
customs are exactly similar.

A recent book by Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan sums up the physical characteristics:

“The Pathans of the hills are usually tall, fair skinned and have ivory complexions”[5].

Kashmir was under direct control of the Durrani Afghan Empire in the 1800s, and the majority of the population there were the Yousufzai Pakhtuns who had moved eastward from Peshawar. They were living in Kashmir in great numbers, about 600,000 families who were later forcibly subdued for about 40 years by the Sikhs [6].

Dr. Bernier, A French traveler in the frontier villages of Kashmir around the 1880’s remarked on the striking physical similarity of the locals with Jews [7]. He noted that their expressions and manners were distinguishable from the other people in this land. He finally adds that “You are not to ascribe what I say to mere fancy, the Jewish appearance of these villagers having been remarked by our Father, the Jesuit, and some other Europeans long before I visited Kashmir”.

The Jesuit Dr. Bernier points to is Dr. Joseph Wolff who says “I was wonderfully struck with the resemblance of the Youssoufszye (sons of Joseph) and the Khyberi, two of their tribes, to the Jews” [8]. Moorcroft also says of Khyberis “They are tall, and of singularly Jewish cast of features… they have been named by themselves Beni Israel, children of Israel from time immemorial.”

Bernier was also referring to George Forster who wrote in 1808 “On first seeing the Kashmirians in their own country I imagined from their garb, the cast of their countenance which was long and of a grave aspect, and the forms of their beard, that I had come among a nation of Jews” [9].

Colonel G. Malleson of the British Army did not believe that the Afghans were Beni Israel, but commented on the issue of physical features “This no doubt has its weight” [10].

Pakhtun Physical features: Oral Tradition

By their own historical tradition, the Pakhtun tribes are descended from the Israelite tribe of Benyamin, specifically from King Saul’s children. This will explain their unnatural tall height which is uncharacteristic of Jews in the middle-east. King Saul is known in the Quran as “Talut”, which means “Tall” in Arabic. In the Torah, specifically in the Book of 1 Samuel, Saul is described as an unusually tall and handsome man. In this context, the Pakhtun tribes are amongst the tallest people in the area and were known to Mahatma Gandhi’s India as the “mountain giants”. Lord Curzon, the British viceroy to India commented about them:

“I know these men. They are brave as lions, wild as cats, docile as children…It is with a sense of pride that one receives the honest homage of these magnificent Samsons, gigantic, bearded, instinct with loyalty, often stained with crime” [11].

Pakhtun (Pathan) features are well shaped and good looks are common [12], as can be compared to their alleged progenitor, King Saul of Israel.

Pakhtun Emotional Characteristics: Israeli history

Saul’s entire reign as the first King of the Beni Israel was marked by a religious tilt, and Israeli historians comment on his strict observance of religious obligations, as for instance in the case of Jonathan and the altar-stone of Aijalon, and in depicting him as possessed from time to time by the spirit of Jahweh[13]. On his campaigns he took with him a priest who was expert in the use of the ephod, and did not fail to consult him. An entirely probable tradition relates that he prohibited those who consulted the dead and familiar spirits [14]. If he condemned these practices, it must not be supposed that he considered them fraudulent; on the contrary, it was because he regarded the spirits of the dead and the spirits of the elohim as rivals of Jahweh, the sole God of Israel.

Saul’s intensely religious character is reflected in the Pakhtun tribes, which spawned the Taliban, the former regime of Afghanistan widely condemned for their ‘extreme’ interpretation of Islam.

Many historians have reconfirmed that the Pakhtuns are in no way a united people. They have many sub clans and are constantly feuding with each other. Nothing except the danger of a common enemy can unite them [15]. This is a direct reference to the Beni Israel tribes which united under King Saul only to fight the common Philistine enemy. Israeli Jews today write in their own words “Israelis have long joked that the surest way to destroy the country is for the Arabs to give it peace. Then the tensions within Israeli society would pull it apart”[16].

Pakhtun Emotional Characteristics: Historians opinion

A British army officer sums up the emotional behavior of a Pakhtun:

“Even when he leaves his native heath behind he takes his manner with him. He will come down, a stalwart manly looking ruffian with frank and open manners, rather Jewish feature… He is certain to be filthy and he may be ragged, but he will saunter into a Viceregal durbar (Royal court) as proud as Lucifer and with the air and manner a diplomatist might envy. Not in the least like any Indian subject. [17]

Genetic Evidence:

The Kings of Israel married foreign non-Israelite women. David married Bathsheba and his son Solomon married the Queen of Sheeba, the Pharaoh’s daughter. Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Tyre[18]. After the exile and dispersion of the tribes of Israel, those who could not return started marrying local women after converting them. Hence their descendants partly resemble the Hebrews and partly their neighboring people. This may be the reason why there is such variation amongst the Pakhtun tribes, who are morally and physically distinguishable from each other, although most of them are heavy bearded with the “Semitic” convex nose.

A study was conducted at University College, London in 2002 concerning genetic tests on Jews from all over the world. The results were published in newspapers, the summary of which follows.

The men’s DNA originated in the Middle East, while the women’s mitochondrial DNA seems to indicate a local Diaspora origin. In simple words, most Jews married women of their host country after they were exiled from Israel about 2,500 years ago. This explains why Jewish communities now resemble the local population where they are living. The scientists described the results as 'very important' [19].

An earlier research paper which was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics clearly states that in comparison with data available from other relevant populations in the region, Jews were found to be more closely related to groups in the north of the Fertile Crescent (Kurds, Turks, and Armenians) than to their Arab neighbors[20]. Some Afghans and Pathans closely resemble the people mentioned above, as they also resemble the Jews. Through extensive genetic testing, the Lemba tribe of Ethiopia has been confirmed to be in possession of genes of the Cohen branch of Levi (Priest tribe). However, they resemble the African people amongst whom they have lived for the last 2,000 years [21].

The farther the Israelite tribes were from Israel, the more they intermarried. These theories now answer the age-old puzzle of Israelite people resembling the local populations in their host countries, even after one generation. Currently, genetic testing of Pakhtun tribesmen has not been done, mainly due to lack of awareness and resources. This is perhaps the best way to give the final word on the subject.


[1] L. H. Dudley Buxton, History of Civilization- Peoples of Asia, (New York: 1996), Routledge, pg. 96

[2] B. S. Guha, Census of India, 1931, i, iii A, p. xi

[3] Coon, Races of Europe, p 419

[4] Coon, Races of Europe, p 420

[5] Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, The Durand Line-it’s Geo Strategic Importance, (Islamabad: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, 2000) p. 31

[6] William Jesse, History of the Afghans, (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 2002) p. 8.

An English translation of the French Caravan Journeys by General J. P. Ferrier (1st Regiment of Chasseurs D’Afrique, 1845).

[7] Fran├žois Bernier “Travels in the Moghul Empire” (Constable, London, 1891, Pg. 930-932).

[8] Rev. Joseph Wolff, D.D. LL.D, Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara in the years 1843-1845, (John W. Parker, London, 1845). Vol. 1 2nd Edition. P. 17.

[9] George Forster, Letters on a journey from Bengal to England. (Faulder,

London, 1808) (Vol. II, page 20).

[10] History of Afghanistan by Colonel G. Malleson, C.S.I. (W.H. Allen & Co, London, at the India Office, 1878), p 39.

[11] Ekhnath Easwaran, Badshah Khan, (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2001) p 64.

[12] Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, The Durand Line-it’s Geo Strategic Importance, (Islamabad: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, 2000) p. 31

[13] Adolphe Lods, Israel: From its Beginnings to the middle of the 7th Century, (Wiltshire UK: Routledge, 1996)

[14]1 Sam. xxviii. 3, 9

[15] Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, The Durand Line-it’s Geo Strategic Importance,

(Islamabad: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, 2000) p. 34

[16] Christopher Dickey and Daniel Klaidman, How will Israel Survive, Newsweek (New York: April 1,2002) p 16.

[17] Oliver, Across the frontier, Pathan and Baluch (London: Champman and Hall Ltd., 1890) p 224.

[18]Amos i. 9

[19] Judy Siegel-Itzkovich. "Dad was out and about, while Mom stayed home." Jerusalem Post (June 16, 2002): 9.

[20] Almut Nebel, Dvora Filon, Bernd Brinkmann, Partha P. Majumder, Marina Faerman, and Ariella Oppenheim. The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East, The American Journal of Human Genetics 69:5 (November 2001), p 1095-1112.

[21] Israel, The Historical Atlas (New York: Macmillan, 1996) p 111.

Israeli Customs

Generalizations about the Pakhtun tribes and their characteristics are like to be misleading because the various tribes live under different conditions and hence differ slightly from each other in their customs and habits. However, all of them agree to the “Beni Israel” theory as first proposed in the Makhzan-al-Afghani in 1613. They all speak the same language (Pushto/Pakhto), practice the same religion (Islam), have the same Pashtoonwali law and are known for their love of liberty and bravery. The reader must not forget that Israeli customs have been found amongst only a few tribes, most noticeably the Yousufzai (Pakhto for sons of Yousuf).

Since historians have called some Pakhtun tribes descendants of the “Ten lost tribes” of Israel, we need a correlation of current Pakhtun customs with those of the Beni Israel prior to 722 BC, when the Israelites were first deported by the Assyrians. Hence the best judges of “Israeli” customs would be the Jews (Yehudi) that have lived side by side with the Pakhtuns for hundreds of years, before they emigrated to Israel.

Opinion of the Afghani Jews in Israel

The Amishav foundation was created in Israel by Rabbi Eliahu Avihail, its main purpose to reintroduce long-isolated Beni Israel communities into the mainstream rabbinic Judaism. During the 1980’s Avihail’s people began to scour the globe in the search for the remnants. In 1994, Amishav brought 57 members of the Beni Israel community of Manipur (Burma-India border) to the West Bank settlement of Kiriat Arba in Hebron (Al- Khalil).

Since Israel’s creation in 1948, about 4,123 Afghani Jews (practicing ones) migrated to Israel [1]. Today nearly all the remaining Jews live near the synagogue on Charshi Torabazein Street, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Around the late 70’s Eliahu Avihail interviewed Yisrael Mishal, former President of the Afghani Jewish community in Afulah, Israel. Mr. Mishal gave examples of his meetings with Pathans who live on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border [2].

He said that the Pathan tribesmen identify themselves with their former name ‘sons of Israel’ (Beni Israel), even though nowadays they live as Muslims. In Afghanistan they are said to number six to seven million, and in Pakistan seven to eight million. Two million of them live as Bedouins. Outwardly, the Pathans are similar to the Jews.

From their ancient customs, one can point to a connection between the Pathans and the Jewish people. They make up about half of the population of Afghanistan, in the region that is now the NWFP province and part of the Balochistan province in Pakistan. Over ninety per cent of the inhabitants are Sunni Muslims. In their ancestral home in the Suleman Mountains, the Pathans continue to live in the tribal framework as their fathers and forefathers did. The legal system operates according to the “Pashtunwali", the unwritten Pashtun Laws, parts of which are similar to the laws of the Torah.

The British, who ruled Afghanistan for a long time, found it difficult to distinguish between the Pathans and the Jews, and called the Pathans ‘Juz’ - Jews. The Jews, too found it hard to distinguish between themselves and the Pathans when the latter are not wearing traditional dress. Afghanistan has about 21 peoples and languages and only the Pathans, apart from the Jews, look clearly Semitic; their skin color is lighter than that of other peoples and their nose is of the curved Semitic type. Since most of them grow beards and side-locks like Jews, this also adds difficulty to an attempt to distinguish between them and the Jews.

Even though the Pathans accepted Islam voluntarily, they maintain Jewish customs preserved from the recesses of their past. The book contains considerable evidence taken from Jews of Afghanistan who lived in the neighborhoods of the Pathans and had contact with them. The evidence doesn’t relate to all the Pathans or to all the tribes and places. However, it does prove the existence of Israelite customs among the Pathans:

The Customs

  • Sidelocks (Payos): The sidelocks are never shaved.
  • Circumcision of male children: Done on the eighth day.
  • Talith (prayer shawl): worn as a shawl and used as a prayer mat.
  • Jewish wedding (Hupah and ring): A wedding canopy under which the groom and bridegroom sit. Some Pathans live with the Bride’s father, just as Prophet Jacob did.
  • Women’s customs (immersion in a river or spring): This is continued among the mountain dwelling tribes.
  • Levirate marriage (Yibum): An obligation for the Pathan to marry his brother’s widow and support the extended family.
  • Honoring the father: The son stands up when the father arrives in his presence.
  • Forbidden foods (horse and camel food): While most Muslims sacrifice camels at the time of Eid-ul-Azha, the Pathans never do so, and sacrifice only cows or goats.
  • Refraining from cooking meat and milk: This tradition has been reported to be followed among some Pathans.
  • Tradition of clean and unclean poultry, also known as halal / haram among muslims
  • Shabbat: preparation of 12 Hallah bread loaves, lighting a candle in honor of the Shabbat, refraining from work on Saturday.
  • Day of Atonement prayer (Yom Kippur): The book says that some of them pray turned in the direction of Jerusalem.
  • Blood on the threshold and on the two Mezzuzot (in times of plague or trouble): This custom is continued as when a Pathan house is created, the blood of the sacrificial animal is smeared on the door posts or the gate of the house.
  • Scapegoat: In the time of plague, a goat is released outside the town as it will carry the town’s disease away with it. This is an old Israelite custom.
  • Curing the ill with the help of the Book of Psalms by placing it under the patient’s head.
  • A Hebrew amulet (Kamia): This tradition continues amongst most Pathans.
  • The Custom of Tefillin: Wearing a box or pouch containing a 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). The pouch is usually placed over the heart region.
  • Hebrew names: Pathans make frequent use of Davud (David), Yousuf (Joseph), Yaqub (Jacob), Suleman (Solomon), Moosa (Moses) for their names and tribes, and the ancestral home of the tribes are the Suleman (Solomon) Mountains of Pakistan.
  • Holy Books: They honor the Torah, the Law of Moses. Pathan tribes such as Yousufzai have historical proof that they were in possession of the Torah [3], until the Holy books were forcibly or voluntarily taken from them by Persian Jews and Zoroastrians.
  • The code of revenge (badal) in the Pushtunwali code comes from the “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” law in the Torah of Moses. Just as the Americans say “There is no escape from death and taxes”, the pathans say “Death and revenge – always and forever”[4].
  • The “Star of David” symbol is found on almost every house, bus, school, tool and ornament in the Pathan city of Pehshawar, Pakistan. The rich Pathans make it out of expensive metals; the poor make it from simple wood.

Recently, Shalwa Weil of Israel has done research on the Afghan-Pathan Jewish community in Israel and published her findings in the Jerusalem Post [5], excerpts of which are given below.

In 1935, a Jewish barber Gabriel Barukhoff traveled to Kabul and encountered nomadic Afghan Pathan tribesmen who claimed that they were descendants of the Children of Israel. In the early 1950s he told Israel’s second president, Yitzhak ben-Zvi, who was researching his book “The Exiled and the Redeemed,” that these tribesmen wore an embroidered Hanukkah lamp on their backs. He had heard that they had mezuzot on their doorposts, wrapped themselves in prayer shawls and lit candles on Friday night. When Barukoff cut their hair, they insisted on keeping their side curls.

An Afghani Jew from Heart, Abraham Benjamin, reported to Ben-Zvi that “According to the tradition current among the Afridis (one of the Pathan sub-tribes), they are descendants of the Israelites, more particularly, the sons of Ephraim. They grow beards; the older among them do not hide the fact of their Jewish descent, but recently the younger generation has suppressed this fact which, if disclosed, would render them most unpopular in the present political mood of the country.” This discussion was in 1951, hence the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 would have led to active suppression of their ancient history, as the Pathans are now Muslims.

In the nineties, Shalwa interviewed Pathan students at the University of New Delhi, the most violently anti-Zionist group that she ever met, who reluctantly agreed that they were Beni Israel. “But this has nothing to do with the modern state of Israel,” they informed her.

The Pathans’ ancient code of hospitality, Pukhtunwali--- by which generosity and protection of guests are paramount is sufficient proof for some of their Jewish affiliation, although hospitality is also a Muslin trait.

Like the ancient Israelites, revenge (badal) is one of the driving forces of Pathan society. If attacked, or their pride is wounded, the Pathans will wage a jihad against the invaders. They succeeded with the British in the 19th century. They resisted the Communists in the late 20th century; and they are still attacking the American coalition in this millennium.

Refoel Berlzonf interviewed an Afghani Jewish Immigrant in Israel, Yated Ne’eman about his community’s religious practices in Afghanistan [6]. He said that before the Taliban’s restrictions, the Jews sat and learned Torah every day in shuls at the end of their working day. A Rabbi of the Afghan community in Israel told Yated that the king once proclaimed that they had a tradition of coming from Jewish stock. Even during his exile in Rome, Zahir Shah maintained links with Jews from the Afghan community.

Refoel relates an incident which happened to a visitor to an Afghan area populated by the Pathans who was accompanied by a relative, a boy with Payos (Side burns). When they passed one of their villages he was attacked by members of the tribe: "They literally wanted to kill us. They thought that I had stolen the boy from one of their areas. When I managed to calm them down and asked them why I was being attacked they explained that I must have stolen the child, because only members of their tribe had the custom of growing Payos since they were Beni Israel."

A rabbi of the Afghani Jewish community in Israel tells Refoel that "There was not even one nonobservant Jew amongst the whole of Afghan Jewry” who immigrated to Israel. “There were some who were victims of ignorance, but there was nobody who was lacking the basics of faith, ahavas haTorah, putting on tefillin and even praying three times a day. The town of Herat had four packed synagogues. If one person was absent for even one tefilloh during the week people went to him to be mevaker cholim, assuming that he must surely not be feeling well."

The rabbi says that this was the state of the Jews in Israel "Until thirty years ago."

"The Afghan king had to have an eye operation in France. The professor who operated on him was Jewish. After the operation the king asked him how much he owed him for the operation. The professor answered that he was Jewish and he asked him if there were Jews in the Afghan kingdom. The king said that there were. The professor asked for the following remuneration for the operation: that every Jew in his kingdom should be given total freedom to move to Eretz Yisroel. The king agreed to this. And that is what actually happened. The Jews who left the country for Eretz Yisroel were allowed to take their possessions with them without any restrictions. After the Jews left there was a revolution and war broke out in the region.”

Ne’eman says that the Afghani authorities dealt fairly with the Jews. People would deposit large sums of money with them without requesting receipts or promissory notes. Jews would also act as mediators in disputes between non- Jews.

"The king himself, who fled the revolution and lives in Rome till today, was very sympathetic towards the Jews. His personal adviser was a Jew called Yosef Siman Tov from the capital Kabul. He was constantly in and out of the royal palace. Even after the king was exiled they maintained their links. The king made sure that the Shiites did not harm the Jews.”

"The old Afghan people living in the villages also claimed to be descended from Jews. My theory is that there was religious persecution in this area and they converted to Islam. A friend of mine, a big merchant who traveled around the towns told me that they found many gravestones with Jewish names in remote cemeteries."

A Jewish merchant visited Afghanistan just after the British had decided to cut the regular "tax" to the local sheikhs. "One fine day we felt a strange quiet in the town, and it really turned out to be the quiet before the storm. Suddenly we heard hordes of tribesmen on horseback from the mountainous areas thundering into the town and the town was quickly flooded with them. They were courageous and tall fighters and the local police just fled in all directions. The invaders emptied out the stores and houses. Within a short time the place was simply swept up by them and left empty. They collected the booty as if they were on a fishing expedition without encountering any opposition."

“As they were picking up their spoils they noticed me and realized straightaway that I was a stranger to the place and not a Muslim. They did not harm me and started asking me questions. I told them that I was a Jewish merchant from Persia and they let me speak with their leader, the sheikh of the tribe. This is what the sheikh told me: ‘We know about our Jewish ancestry. We have a tradition, which has been passed down from generation to generation, that we come from Jews and that until the period of the Islamic conquest we were complete Jews until being forced to convert to Islam.’ The sheikh added that already 100 years before Islam appeared in the area they were attacked by fire worshipers, who looted all their belongings including ancient books. As a result they submitted to Islam relatively easily, since their tradition had disappeared by that time.”

After the above article was published in the San Jose Mercury on 23 June 1980, the Americans were
pressurized by the Jewish and Christian lobbies to send weapons and training to the Pathan freedom
fighters through Pakistan.

“Anyone Jewish Shall Be Killed”

In the ‘Darul Amman’ museum in Kabul (capital of Afghanistan), there is a black stone found in Kandahar, on which is written in Hebrew "We shall be faced with fear and terror. Anyone Jewish shall be killed, and any Muslim shall live. Wednesday 4th Adar." The year is broken off of the stone.

Another Jewish immigrant from Afghanistan related the following: "Once I was walking with my family in the king's garden in Kabul. The king was walking there. He called us and we went over to him and kissed his hand, as is customary. The king asked me how long the Jews had been living in Afghanistan. I did not know what to answer. He said that there was a stone according to which the Jews had been here for 1540 years."

Another former Afghan Jew recalls the following: "When I was a child in the Afghan town of Herat it became known that the King Emir Habib Allah Khan, the father of King Amman Allah Khan, was coming to tour the city riding on a horse. The notable Jews of the town, including my late father, a well respected merchant from the area, met and decided to organize a festive welcome for the king. My father also pushed me to participate in the welcoming ceremony. The king asked the Jews which tribe they came from. The heads of the delegation replied that they did not know, since they did not have any family trees. `Well, we do know,' responded the king. `We are from the family of Muhammadzai. We are all from the tribe of Benjamin, descendants of King Saul from the sons of Jonathan, Afghan and Pathan.' The king took leave of the delegation but not before instructing his servants to provide the Jews with gilded coats and hats.”

The president of the Herat Jewish community, the late Avrohom Hakohen also testified that in his youth he heard King Habib Allah declaring that he was from the tribe of Benjamin, and that Afghans living in the mountains had told him: "We have heard from our elders that we come from the Jews."

The king's statement reveals the origin of the name "Pathan." The tribe's members are convinced that they are the descendants of Pison, grandson of Yonoson the son of Shaul, who is mentioned in Divrei Hayomim I (8:35).

Members of the tribe had amulets hidden in silver containers, which they kept secret from everybody and which they themselves were forbidden to open. A Jewish visitor to a village in the Mengal region noticed some boys aged three to five running around with amulets. He grabbed an amulet from one of them, opened it and discovered two words written in ksav Ashuris (Assyrian script): Shema Yisroel. Only one of the members of the tribe knows how to write the amulet and the secret of the "chant" is transmitted from father to oldest son. The person who writes the amulet shuts himself up in a room inside another room and writes the "chant." Since the amulet is written in Assyrian script the person writing it clearly does not understand its meaning, but he relates to it with awe as a mysterious symbol.

One of the villages had a "charm", a bundle which they would put underneath a sick person's head. One Jewish visitor wanted to see the contents of this bundle, but was warned by the locals not to open it and that if he did so he would die. He was told that there were similar bundles in the whole region, but they were not opened by anybody. He met with an old lady healer ("over 100 years old" according to the locals) and she also warned him not to open the bundle, since "it would be a pity for him to die young." He did open it and, having remained alive, found a sefer Tehillim(Book of Psalms of Torah) inside it.

In one of the towns belonging to the Pathan tribe there is a mysterious building called "The Holy House." It is kept under lock and key and nobody is allowed in. Jews who spoke to tribal elders found out that there were sifrei Torah inside. They claimed that this ancient building used to be a synagogue. Attempts to purchase these sifrei Torah for large sums came to nothing, following the staunch opposition of the elders of the tribe "for that is what our forefathers instructed us."

According to local tradition, the locals buried thousands of books ten meters under the ground in the town of Balkh (founded after the destruction of the First Temple) and built a road on top of it.

The district officer of Herat, who signed exit permits for Jews, asked one of the activists in the Jewish community where the Jews were traveling to. He told them that they were heading for Eretz Yisroel(Land of Israel). The officer was very surprised to hear this and commented, "But we are also from the Children of Israel, why are you leaving for the Land of Israel?"

The opinion of Muslim Authors

There is no doubt about the usage of “Jewish” names by the Pakhtun/Pashtun tribes, and such names are also kept by Muslims around the world, but perhaps not with the frequency that the Pakhtuns utilize them. This is one reason that Muslim authors have given against the ‘Beni Israel’ theory.

But the Pakhtun’s follow peculiar customs like:

  • “Passover Practice” of sacrificing an animal and smearing the doorway to avert death and calamity
  • Placing the sins of the people upon a heifer or goat which is driven out in the wilderness in the manner of the biblical scapegoat
  • Stoning to death of blasphemers
  • Periodical distribution of land by lot [7]
  • The rites of circumcision and purification

which were all given in the Book of Leviticus of the Beni Israel, and modern Muslim historians like Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan accept them as indicators, if not proof of their Israelite heritage [8]. They are the only tribes in the area to practice all of these customs, as the ancient Beni Israel did 2,300 years ago.

The overwhelming physical and cultural evidence has pressured many observers, even Jewish ones to comment:

“I was wonderfully struck with the resemblance of the Youssoufszye and the Khyberi, two of their tribes, to the Jews” [9]


[1] From the Internet:

[2] A. Avihail and A. Brin, Lost Tribes from Assyria, (Jerusalem: 1978), in Hebrew. Excerpts have been taken from the English translation by Issachar Katzir. Materials are also online at

[3] L. P. Ferrier, History of the Afghans, Translated by W. M. Jesse from the French Caravan Journeys, (John Murray, London, 1858), p 4.

[4] Ekhnath Easwaran, Badshah Khan, (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2001) pp. 100.

[5] Shalva Weil, Our Brethren The Taliban?, (Jerusalem: 2002), Jerusalem Post Issue 91 ~ January, February and March 2002 ~ Tevet, Shevat and Adar 5762. Taken from website

[6] Refoel Berlzonf, Judaism in the Land of the Taliban: “There Was Not Even One Nonobservant Jew amongst the Whole of Afghan Jewry"

[7] Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, The Durand Line-it’s Geo Strategic Importance, (Islamabad: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, 2000) p. 34

[8] Dr. Azmat Hayat Khan, The Durand Line-it’s Geo Strategic Importance, (Islamabad: Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar, 2000) p. 30

[9] Rev. Joseph Wolff, D.D. LL.D, Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara in the years 1843-1845, (John W. Parker, London, 1845). Vol. 1 2nd Edition. P. 17.

The blue shaded region above are the areas where the majority of the Pathan tribes settled.

We must also look at the current relationship between the Pakhtun tribes. The western “Afghan” tribe of Abdali (Durrani) was in prime form during Ahmad Shah Abdali’s Afghan Kingdom, yet they were never considered as leaders by the eastern “Pathan” tribes of the Suleman Mountains. The tribe of Yousufzai has remained the unchallenged leader of the eastern tribes since the beginning. In all matters of war, language and education, the Yousufzai have always stood out. Their form of Pakhto dialect is considered to be the purest, as compared to the Abdali Pushto which uses more Persian. The Yousufzai were also in possession of Torah and Israelite prayer items up to Nadir Shah’s invasion of India(L. P. Ferrier, History of the Afghans Translated by W. M. Jesse. (John Murray, London, 1858). p 4). Similarly among ancient Israel the tribe of Yousuf (which included the tribes of his sons Ephraim and Manasseh) was the unchallenged leader of Israel when the tribe of Judah (Yehudah) broke away. The Pakhtun Yousufzai are known through history for their large numbers, militancy and ferocity in war, just as the tribe of Yousuf is remembered by the Jews, Christians and Muslims. The capital of the ten tribes of Israel was at the city of Ephraim, just as the Yousufzai city of Peshawar (Pesh-Havor, meaning “over Havor”, the same as in written in the Torah) is the unofficial capital of the Pakhtun tribes in Pakistan.

This means that current tribal names of the Pakhtun tribes must correspond closely with their original Israelite names, hence:

Yousufzai – Sons of Yousuf
Gadoon – Gad
Rabbani – Reuben
Abdali – Naphtali
Shinwari – Shimeon
Zamand - Zebulon
Levani – Levi

The similarities of Pathan features, dress, manner, culture, practices, history, genealogy and professions with those of the “Jews” of Israel has made the majority of historians accept their own hypothesis, that they are descended from the Beni Israel tribes.

Qazi Fazli Azeem
Karachi Pakistan

Online References*


Anonymous said...

I do believe we pashtuns are related ancient israeli

Jew On One Foot said...

I am a Jew and i dont just believe but am sure you arr our brothers.

I invite the writer and everyone to join us on our facebook group:

The people of israel's Jirga - Pashtuns and Jews