- Frank Viviano Writes
- Taliban may have origin in ancient
tribe of Israel
Anthropologist finds many similarities
- Jerusalem -- Preoccupied with their own terrorist war at
home, Israelis have paid less attention than the rest of the
world to the campaign against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.
- Just as well, says an Israeli anthropologist -- because the
Taliban might have had Jewish origins.
- According to Shalva Weil, there is considerable body of evidence
suggesting that the Pathan ethnic group, from which most of the
Taliban are drawn, is one of the fabled "10 lost tribes"
of ancient Israel. Indeed, as recently as half a century ago,
Pathan tribesmen themselves claimed that they were descended
from wandering Jews.
- Writing in the weekly magazine "Jerusalem Report,"
Weil cites a report delivered to Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
in the 1950s, based on the encounter of a Jewish traveler with
- The Pathans, who are also called Pashtuns, were said to wear
cloaks decorated with a symbol that closely resembled the lamps
lit by Jews at Hanukkah. The traveler also reported that they
donned prayer shawls similar to those of their Jewish counterparts
in the West, insisted that men grow side curls, and lit votive
candles on Friday evenings, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.
- Some anthropologists have also found Pathan families that
circumcise sons on the eighth day after their birth, in keeping
with Jewish custom.
- A legend of the Pathans, as recounted to Weil when she did
field research among them in the 1980s along the Pakistani border,
tells of a "Jeremiah," a son of King Saul -- but not
the more familiar Jeremiah of the Old Testament -- who sired
a daughter named "Afghana." Her descendants, the legend
maintains, made their way to the Central Asian land that now
bears her name.
- A Jewish connection of more recent and well-documented origin
leads just across Afghanistan's western frontier to the Iranian
city of Mashhad. It is the traditional home of the "Mashhadi
Jews," who were forcibly converted to Shiite Islam after
a pogrom in 1839.
- Like some of their distant Sephardic cousins in Islamic Spain,
the Mashhadi Jews behaved in public as faithful Muslims -- even
making the pilgrimage to Mecca when they could afford it -- but
clung secretly to Judaism at home.
- Hundreds of them emigrated to the Shiite region around Herat
in western Afghanistan over the years, which is today a major
stronghold of the anti- Taliban resistance.
- The U.S. war against terrorism, in short, may be unfolding
amid a second war between two lost tribes of Israel.
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