Jewish people in Africa ( think about the hottest power couple in Jewish history: Joseph one of the twelve sons of Jacob and his Egiptian wife Asenat or what about King Salomon and the Queen of Sheba? or the most famous one: Moses the prophet and Sefora. Yes Jewish people lived and spread through out the African continent and so in many nations of it not just Ethiopia!
We know a bit of the Beta or Falashas Israel, the Lemba, Igbo Jews and many more…
After the fall of the Kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom) in 720 B.C. and the Kingdom of Judea (Southern Kingdom) sixth century B.C., there have been several groups who have either fled the land of Israel, or who were captured and removed as slaves, which in turn commenced a diaspora that formed out of ancient Israeli tribes.
We know of course that not all Jews live in Israel and that various groups from all over the globe have made numerous claims of affiliation. In this literary exploration, the claims of some black people to include the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews), the Lemba Tribe of South Africa and the the Igbo Jews of Nigeria .
The Beta Israel (Ethiopian or Falashas Jews)
We begin with the Black Jews of Ethiopia who according to Professor and writer Gadi Ben-Ezer, are said to number around 120,000 in Israel itself and around 22,000 to 50,000 in Ethiopia. Many of these Ethiopians were allowed to emigrate to Israel under its Law of Return, which states that all Jews can settle there and obtain Israeli citizenship. In exploring the Hebrew Biblical record, one finds that there are several references to a person named Sheba who is said to have become involved in the genealogical record of the twelve tribes of Judah, and some of their geographical settling locations in Ethiopia. There are actually different schools of thought on this matter due to two their being two different references in the Hebrew Bible. Further references to the actual but unnamed Queen of the land of Sheba can be found in the Hebrew text and seem to point to a possible union between the Queen and King Solomon. It is from this union that the origin of so-called Lost Tribes, like the Beta Israel, are said to have come from.
The Lemba of South Africa
The claims of Jewish origin related to the Lemba seem to wind their way through time and geography through a unique oral and physical history that spans several centuries. Beginning in an ancient city called Sena (located in modern-day Yemen), and winding their way down the entire continent of Africa. According to this oral tradition the Lemba are said to have made stops and interacted in trade and commerce with local tribes of indigenous Africans (with very little inter-marrying), from Ethiopia, to Malawi, to Zimbabwe, through to South Africa. The Lemba’s claims mostly come from their story and their cultural and religious practices, which are said to be non-European in nature and specifically Jewish in origin. They also claim direct lineage from priestly clan known as the Bhuba clan, and these people are said to be directly related to ancient Jews Arron and his brother Moses.
The Igbo Jews of Nigeria
They claim descent variously from the tribes of Ephraim, Naphtali, Menasseh, Levi, Zebulun and Gad. The Igbo, the third largest ethnic group in Nigeria, believe that they are descendants of Jews who had migrated to western Africa over many centuries. There are currently several Jewish communities across Nigeria and the structure is getting stronger. There are 26 synagogues across the country and the community is estimated at around 40,000 individuals, in a country with a population of 140,000,000.
Religious Practices. Many Igbo practices pose striking similarities with Jewish customs mentioned in the Torah and even in the present day. Such customs include: circumcision 8 days after the birth of a male child, a ban on eating un-kosher animals, separating men from women during the female cycle of menstruation, donning of the Tallit and Kippah, and the celebration of holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. In recent times, the communities have adopted holidays such as Hannukah and Purim, holidays that only were beginning to be observed after many of the tribes of Israel had already dispersed. For example, the Ethiopian Jews and the Benei Menashe had no knowledge of such holidays.
There are other communities in Nigeria that are not of the Igbo tribe that are practicing Judaism, such as those in Yorubaland. Thus, Jewish practice is not restricted to one ethnic group or location.
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