01 January 2012

Afghanistan and Kashmir

More from Im Nin'alu's Book of Origins




Afghanistan

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.

* * * *

The Kashmiris of India - 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

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.

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.



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