This page is from Chapter 1
Israelites Came To Ancient Japan
The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Myanmar, and China
What Are Israelites?
Around the time of 1900 B.C.E., there was a man named Jacob who was the
ancestor of the people of Israel. Later Jacob's name was changed to Israel.
Israel had 12 sons, who were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zevulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, and Benjamin. The descendants of these sons formed 12 tribes of Israel. These 12 tribes are called "Israelites".
When they had territories in Canaan (Israel, Holy Land), the tribe of Levi did not have a territory for they were the tribe of priests. Instead, the tribe of Joseph was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and have their own territories. Thus the land of Canaan was divided into 12 territories.
Later, the 12 tribes of Israel experienced the height of prosperity in the time of King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.E.. But after Solomon died, the united kingdom of Israel was divided into two countries: One is the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the other the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom is also called Samaria, the Southern Kingdom is also called Judea.
The word "Jews" is used basically for the people and descendants of Judea, the Southern Kingdom, but sometimes used for the same meaning as Israelites.
The Ten tribes of Israel belonged to Samaria, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They were Reuben, Gad, Ephraim, Issachar, Zevulun, Naphtali, Asher, Dan, Manasseh and (a part of) Benjamin. While the other tribes belonged to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
In the 8th century B.C.E., the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the army of Assyrian empire, and the Ten Tribes of Israel was led captive and compelled to march to the land of Assyria. They did not come back to the land of Israel. They are so called "the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel."
Josephus Wrote About the Lost Tribes of Israel
Where was the exact place of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel to be carried
captive in Assyrian Empire? The Bible records:
"the king of Assyria carried Israel away captive to Assyria, and put them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." (2 Kings 18:11)
These places are located in today's northern Iraq or Northwest Iran called Kurdistan. The Ten Tribes of Israel were firstly compelled to emigrate there, and this is also a starting point of our research.
There is a Jew named Josephus Flavius, a very reliable historian who lived in the first century C.E.. In his book of history, there is a description about whereabouts of the Ten Tribes:
"...the Ten Tribes who are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, whose numbers cannot be estimated." (Antiquities 11:2)
Josephus wrote that in the first century C.E., the Ten Tribes of Israel lived as an immense multitude beyond Euphrates River. This may mean that some of of them lived in the close area east of Euphrates River and others moved to a place far beyond east of the Euphrates.
The Lost Tribes of Israel in Afghanistan
The Bible mentions the cities of Medes, today's Iraq and Iran, as the
locations of the Assyrian exile of the Ten Tribes of Israel. It is an accepted
tradition that the people of this area are from the Assyrian exile.
It seems that later, many of the Ten Tribes of Israel moved to the east along the Silk Road. We find the descendants of them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Myanmar (Burma), China and other countries, which are along the Silk Road. I will have a brief explanation about them in this chapter. The information is mostly from the books which were written by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and published in Japan, and "Beyond the Sambatyon, The Myth of The Lost Tribes" written by Simcha Shtull.
East of Iran is Afghanistan. There are so many tribes in Afghanistan with names that have Yusuf in the name as Yusufzai, Yusufuzi, Yusufzad, etc.. Yusuf means Joseph and Yusufzai means children of Joseph.
They claim their origin to be from the Lost Tribes of Israel, that is, from the tribes of Joseph, which are the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and are a part of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. They also call themselves Bani-Israel meaning children of Israel. Their tradition is that they were carried away from their ancient homeland.
Formerly they were shepherds in search of pasture but they gave up their nomadic life and settled into village communities. The people of Yusufzai live separated from the rest of the world by mountains and difficult rivers and it is hard to find them. They marry among themselves.
Today they are devout Muslims but have Hebrew names, wear the fringes which only Jews and Japanese Shinto priests wear, light candles for the Sabbath on Friday night which only Jews do (The Sabbath is from the sunset of Friday until the night of Saturday). They also have the custom called peyot (side-curls) which is to have curled hair of about 10 centimeters long in front of both ears. This is a custom which only Jews have and which may very well be of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
Pathans As the Descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, there also live people called Pathans numbering
about 15 million. They live mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as in
Persia and India. Most of them are Muslims but they have a tradition of being of
the Lost Tribes and have Israeli customs.
According to a book written by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, the Pathans have custom of circumcision on the 8th day. This is a known Jewish custom, and is the oldest Jewish tradition. Rabbi Tokayer once told me that he had witnessed and been present at a very joyous circumcision ceremony on the 8th day after birth among the Pathans. Muslims have custom of circumcision but it is not on the 8th day, usually at the age of 12.
The Pathans have a sort of small Tallit called Kafan. This is a 4 cornered garment which they tie strings similar to the fringes (Jews call them Tzitzit) and is one of the oldest Jewish traditions going back to the Torah and it is a sign of their Israeli origin.
The Pathans have custom of the Sabbath, Israeli tradition of the day of rest. On the Sabbath they do not labor, cook or bake. The Pathans prepare 12 Hallot (traditional Jewish bread, Leviticus 24:5) in honor of the Sabbath as was done in the ancient Israeli temple. One of the significant indicators proving the Israeli origins of the Pathans is the lighting of the candle to honor the Sabbath. After lighting, the candle is covered usually by a large basket. The candle is lit by a woman past her menopause. This is the same as Israeli custom.
Pathans have custom of Kosher, diatary laws same as Jews. Pathans do not eat horse or camel meat, which is most common in their area but forbidden to Jews. There is some evidence to their not eating meat and milk together which is also an ancient Israeli tradition. And they have a tradition regarding differentiating between pure and impure birds which means permitted and not permitted birds similar to the Torah.
Some still wear a small box which Jews call Tefillin (phylactery) containing a verse of the Bible. This box resemble Japanese Tokin of Yamabushi's forehead, too, which I will mention later. This is an ancient custom of Israel. In the Jewish box there is the verse of Shema Israel, that is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4) This custom of 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).
It is interesting to note that the Pathans retain family names of the Lost Tribes such as Asher, Gad, Naphtali, Reuben and Manasseh and Ephraim. Among them there are people who are called by these names, which are of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. There are also people who are called Israel, Samuel, and so on, which are never found among the Muslims.
The Pathans were mostly called "Bani-Israel" meaning children of Israel even though they live today as devout Muslims.
The legal system which is known as Pashtunwali, the law of the Pashtu, is very similar to the Torah, which is the holiest Jewish book and the book of ancient Jewish way of life. There are pages and even complete books among the pathans and they honor greatly what is called Tavrad El Sharif (the Torah of Moses), and they rise at the mention of the name of Moses even though it is not important in Islam.
Besides the oral tradition related by the elders of the tribe, there are also interesting testimonies of keeping of scrolls of genealogy among the tribes, reaching back to the Fathers of the Jewish nation. These scrolls are well preserved and some are written in gold on the skins of a doe.
No less interesting and significant are the names of the tribes which bear close resemblance to the Tribes of Israel. The Rabbani Tribe is really Reuben, the Shinware Tribe is Simeon, the Lewani Tribe is Levi, The Daftani Tribe is Naphtali, and the Jaji Tribe is Gad, and the Ashuri Tribe is Asher, The Yusefsai Tribe is children of Joseph, and the Afridi Tribe is really Ephraim. These are the names of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
The Pathans themselves point out the differences between the original names of the tribes and their present names are because of the different dialects of the languages so that, for instance, Jaji was actually called Gaji for the tribe of Gad.
Women of the Pathans keep laws similar to the Jewish laws regarding menstruation. During this time and for 7 days after, no contact is allowed with the husband. After this period, the woman immerses in a river or spring or in a bathhouse if a natural spring is not available. This is exactly the same as the Israeli tradition going back to the days of the Bible.
The Lost Tribes of Israel Who Came to Kashmir
Leaving Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Pathans live, when one goes east,
it is the State of Kashmir in northern part of India which is west of Nepal.
There are 5 to 7 million people there. Generally speaking, they have clearer complexions and are different from the other citizens of India. An Interesting tradition is passed down among the Kashmiri people regarding their ancestry from the Lost Tribes of Israel.
The people in Kashmir perform a feast called Pasca in Spring, when they adjust the difference of days between the lunar calendar and solar calendar and the way of this adjustment is the same as Jewish. Several books are published on this. The Udu language which is used in Kashmir includes many words of Hebrew.
In Kashmir, various places are called with Israeli names, like Har Nevo, Beit Peor, Pisga, Heshubon. These are all the names in the land of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
The same thing is true in the names of people, male names, female names, and names of village. For example, one of the tribes of Kashmir is called Asheriya which is Asher, the tribe of Dand is Dan, Gadha is Gad, Lavi is Levi. The Tribe of Shaul is the Hebrew name of King Saul. Musa is Moses, Suliamanish is Solomon. And you also have the tribe of Israel, the tribe of Abri which is the tribe of Hebrew, and the tribe of Kahana which is the word for Jewish priest.
There are also 50-75 names of places in Kashmir which are in fact the Hebrew names that ancient Israelites were very familiar with. There is a place called Samaryah which is Samaria. Mamre is Mamre, Pishgah is Pisgah, Nabudaal is Mt. Nevo, Bushan is Bashan, Gilgit is Gilgal, Heshba is Heshbon, Amunah is Amon, Gochan is Goshen, Median-pura is Midian, and Guzana is Gozan which is a place name in Assyria and the very place where the Ten Tribes of Israel were deported.
The name Israel is very common among them as it is among the Pathans, and this name is never used among the Muslims.
The history of the Kashmiris is shrouded in mystery as is the history of other people in that region. Most Kashmir researchers are of the opinion that many inhabitants of Kashmir are descendants of the Lost Tribes who were exiled in 722 B.C.E.. They wandered along the Silk Road into the countries of the East, Persia and Afghanistan until they reached the Kashmir valley and settled there.
The priest Kitro in his book, the General History of the Mughal Empire, said that the Kashmir people are the descendants of the Israelites. The priest Monstrat said that in the time of Vasco da Gama in the 15th century, "all the inhabitants of this area who have been living here since ancient times can trace their ancestry, according to their race and customs, to the ancient Israelites. their features, their general physical appearance, their clothing, their ways of conducting business, all show that they are similar to the ancient Israelites."
Among Kashmiri people there are customs to light a candle for the Sabbath, have sidelocks, beards, and emblem or design of the Shield of David (Star of David) just like Jews do.
In an area which is on the border of Pakistan, called Yusmarg (Handwara), there lives a group which to this very day calls itself B'nei Israel meaning children of Israel. Many of the inhabitants of Kashmir say that this is the ancient name of all the people of Kashmir. The two primary historians of Kashmir, Mulla Nadiri, who wrote The History of Kashmir and Mulla Ahmad who wrote Events of Kashmir have established without a trace of doubt that the origins of the Kashmiri people are to be found in the people of Israel.
In Kashmir there is a strange legend which says that Jesus did not die on the cross but in his search for the Ten Tribes reached the Kashmir valley and lived there until his death. They even point to his grave in Kashmir.
This is very much like a legend which exists in Japan (Herai village, present Shingou village in Aomori prefecture), where they also have the legend that Jesus came to Japan and died there. They even point to his grave. It seems that sometimes the legend of coming of Jesus and his tomb is born where the Ten Tribes are said to come.
In Kashmir, there is another strange tradition of a small community next to the Wallar Link who point out the grave of Moses. There is yet another tradition in connection with King Solomon according to which even King Solomon reached the Kashmir Valley and through his wisdom aided the people of Kashmir by successfully regulating the Jalum river. This tradition is also connected to a place called Solomon's throne which is situated above the capital of Kashmir, Srinagar. Isn't it strange and fascinating that there are historical and even folkloristic tales of ancient Israeli heroes in these strange and exotic places?
These also strangely resemble the legends of Japan. There is so called the grave of Moses on Mt. Houdatsu in Ishikawa prefecture, Japan, and also a legend says that many secret treasures of Solomon are kept in Mt. Tsurugi in Shikoku, Japan. What is this phenomenon?
The Lost Tribes of Israel Who Came to India and Myanmar,
In the mountainous region which lies on both sides of the border between
India and Myanmar (former Burma), lives the Menashe (Shinlung) tribe which numbers
between 1-2 million people. They intermarried with the Chinese and look
Chinese-Burmas, but the entire tribe is conscious of their Israeli
Recently, Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who is the president of Amishav, an organization in Jerusalem for the search of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, went to Myanmar and investigated the Menashe tribe.
Menashe people with Rabbi Avichail (right)
The word Menashe appears often in their poetry and prayer. It is the name of
their ancestor and they call themselves children of Menashe (Beni Menashe). When
they pray, they say, "Oh, God of Menashe," which is from the name Manasseh, a
tribe of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
According to the history which Menashe people say, they were exiled to Assyria in 722 B.C.E. with other Tribes of Israel. Assyria was later conquered by Babylon (607 B.C.E.), which was later conquered by Persia (457 B.C.E.), which was later conquered by Greece of Alexander the Great (331 B.C.E.), when the people of Menashe were deported from Persia to Afghanistan and other places.
There Menashe tribe became shepherds and Idol worshipers. They were later conquered by Islam and forced to convert to Islam. Because of their speaking Hebrew they were called the Semitic speakers. Throughout this entire period they possessed a Hebrew Torah scroll which they guarded with their elders and their priest.
Among them there were those who left Afghanistan and migrated eastward until they reached the area of the Tibetan-Chinese border. From there they continued into China following the Wei River until they reach the central China, near Kaifeng. They settled there at about 231 B.C.E..
But the Chinese were cruel to them and made them as slaves. Some of them escaped and lived in caves in the mountainous areas called Shinlung, which became another name for the tribe of Menashe. They are also called the cave people or the mountain people.
Menashe people lived in caves in poverty for about two generations but they still kept the Torah scroll with them. But they started to assimilate and have Chinese influences. Later they were banished from their cave area and went west through Thailand and eventually reached the area in Myanmar.
There they wandered along the river until they reached Mandaley. From there they reached the Chin Mountains. In the 18th century a part of them migrated to Manipur and Mizoram which are in northeastern India. Generally, they maintained the tradition about their wandering and they realized that they were not Chinese even though they spoke the local language.
They call them themselves Lusi which means the Ten Tribe ("Lu" means tribes, and "si" means ten).
According to the history which Menashe people state, when they were banished from their cave area they lost their Torah scroll when or perhaps it was stolen or burnt by the Chinese. But the priests of the tribe of Menashe continued to hand down their tradition orally including their ritual observances until the 19th century.
They had kept the custom of circumcision, which when it became difficult was no longer practiced but they blessed the child in a special ceremony on the 8th day. They also had holy days which were very similar to the Jewish days.
The following poem accompanied them throughout their migrations. It is a traditional song about the crossing of the Red Sea which was written by their ancestors. This is the English translation:
We must keep the Passover feast
Because we crossed the Red Sea by dry land
At night we crossed with a fire
And By day with a cloud
Enemies pursued us with chariots
And the sea swallowed them up
And used them as food for the fish
And when we were thirsty
We received water from the rock
This content is similar to the experience of Israelites written in Exodus.
The people of Menashe call their God Y'wa, which is the same as Biblical God's
name Yah, or Yahweh.
In every village they had a priest whose name was always Aaron, the brother of Moses and the first Jewish priest. One of his duties was to watch over the village.
The priest wore a tunic and a breastplate and an embroidered coat fastened with a belt and a crown on his head. And they always sang about Menashe at the beginning of each gathering.
Rabbi Tokayer says that he met this group in the jungles of Burma in 1963 or 1964 and he can describe their offerings and sacrifices as exactly the same as was offered in the Bible.
Recently a return to Judaism began. Several thousand people of Menashe decided to observe the laws of the Torah and returned to Judaism. They have synagogues in Manipur, Assam, and Mizoram. There are also those who emigrated to Israel. Thousands long for returning to Israel.
The Lost Tribes of Israel Who Came to China
In the mountainous area of northwest China, west of the Min River, near the
border of Tibet, in Szechuan lives an ancient people called by the Chinese,
Chiang or Chiang-Min, who numbers about 250 thousand people.
In 1937, a book was published entitled, China's First Missionaries, subtitled, Ancient Israelites, by Rev. Thomas Torrance, who was a missionary in this area of China and was the first to write about this tribe and what he believed to be their ancient roots of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
According to the reports by Torrance, he believed that the customs, rituals, modes of thought, domestic and religious practices of the Israelites who were the contemporaries of Amos, Hosea and Elijah, were found within the Chiang people of northwestern China. Torrance was basically very impressed with the simple monotheism of this people in China in an area where the term God was not even known.
The language of the Chiang tribe had been forgotten and they had also lost their ancient script. Today they speak Chinese.
They themselves see themselves as immigrants from the west who reached this area after a journey of three years three months. The Chinese treated them as Barbarians, while Chiang people related to the Chinese as idol worshipers.
Chiang Min people (Photo: Thomas Torrance in 1920's)
Hate and enmity existed between the Chinese and this tribe for a long time.
They lived independently until the middle of the 18th century when they became
part of the general population to earn more freedom. The religious pressure from
the Chinese, the spread of Christianity, and the influence of intermarriage
caused the Chiang tribe to generally and greatly give up their special
monotheistic way of life.
However it is still possible even today to learn about the past traditions of the Chiang tribe through their customs and their faith which they still keep. This tribe had been living a special Israeli way of life since the time of B.C.E..
According to their tradition, the Chiang tribe is the descendant of Abraham and their forefather had 12 sons. Those among them who did not take Chinese wives after their victory in war still look Semitic.
They believe in one God whom they call Abachi meaning the father of heaven, or Mabichu, the spirit of heaven, or also Tian, heaven. As a result of Chinese influences they all call Him God of the mountains as the mountains are the central place for worship of God.
Their concept of God is that of an all powerful God who watches over the entire world, judges the world fairly, rewards the righteous, and punishes the wicked. This God gives them the opportunity to do repentance and to gain atonement for their actions. In times of trouble, they call God in the name of "Yawei", the same as Yahweh.
They also believe in spirits and demons and they are forbidden to worship them, but this is probably a Chinese influence. In the past they had written scrolls of parchment and also books but today they only have oral traditions. They themselves do not understand the prayers that they recite every week.
The Chiang tribe lives a very special way of life based on the offering of animal sacrifices which seems to have been seen among the Ten Tribes of Israel. It is forbidden to worship statues or foreign gods and anyone who offers a sacrifice to another god faces the death penalty.
These priests wear clean white clothes and perform the sacrifices in a state of purity as the priests in ancient Israel did (1 Samuel 15:27). I recall that Japanese Shinto priests also wear clean white clothes at holy events.
A priest of Chiang Min tribe (Photo: Torrance in 1920's)
The priest of the Chiang tribe wears a special head turban. The priest is
ordained in a special ceremony in which sacrifices are also offered. Unmarried
men may not be a priest, which was the same in ancient Israel (Leviticus 21:7,
The altar itself is built of earth which is molded into stones which are then laid one on top of the other without being cut of fashioned by any tool of metal. It is important to remember that in the Torah, the ancient altar could not be made of cut stones (Exodus 20:25), since the sword or whatever tool to be used to cut the stone was also an instrument of war and harm.
The main part of the service is performed at night perhaps to conceal it from other Chinese or because of the special effect of the silence and the tranquility of night. This was also ancient Israeli tradition. It is interesting that the important rituals of Japanese Shinto religion are also performed at night.
Before the offering of sacrifices, one is required to wash one's self and one's clothing and to dress in clean garments. Sacrificial animals themselves must be washed and purified. There is a special place for purification and washing. The elders and priest place their hands on the head of the sacrifice which is to be slaughtered then offer their prayers.
Circumcision is not performed. It seems to have obsoleted. But after the 7th day or at the eve of the 40th day of the child's life, a white rooster is slaughtered in the child's honor and he is given a name.
Ancient Jewish Communities in Kaifeng, China
As I mentioned before, Menashe people once went to the region near Kaifeng,
China. The Jewish community in Kaifeng is most famous as the very ancient one
which had existed since the time of B.C.E..
Kaifeng was the former capital for several dynasties in China. The Jews there did not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, which is a custom of Israelites, and their religion was called by the name meaning this.
There are still a few thousand Jews in Kaifeng. They had maintained some Jewish tradition. In Kaifeng they had a synagogue. They intermarried with the Chinese and look Chinese.
We can trace the history of Israelites in China to very ancient times. According to a stone monument in Kaifeng, Israelites already came to Kaifeng in 231 B.C.E.. Many Israelites or Jews lived in parts of China even before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E..
The Lost Tribes of Israel Went East Along the Silk Road
I have mentioned above about the people of the Yusufzai and the Pathans in
Afghanistan and Pakistan, the people of Kashmir, the Menashe tribe in India and
Myanmar, and the Chiang (Chiang-Min) tribe in China. These places are all along
the Silk Road. Are these all where they went?
Otherwise, were there any other people who went further east along the Silk Road?
Where is the destination of the Silk Road? Japan. Did the Ten Tribes of Israel come to Japan?
If the Ten Tribes came to China, we must say that there is a strong possibility that they came to Japan also, for next to China is Japan. But someone may think, "There is a sea between China and Japan, which makes it difficult to get to Japan."
However, it was not a big problem for the Israelites. Scholars say that Israelites already traded in the time of King Solomon (the 10th century B.C.E.) with India and other countries of the Mediterranean Sea with a fleet of ships (see 1 Kings 10:22, Some of the words are from Sanskrit). Israelites knew well about ships even in the times before the country of Japan started.
The Silk Road was actually Silk Roads because there were several roads on the land and the sea already in the time of B.C.E. The Israelites were experienced people for getting across the ocean.
Israelites Came to Ancient Japan
The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Myanmar, and China
Various Other Similarities Between Ancient Israel and Ancient Japan