Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pashtuns and Jews Who Have Lived in Afghanistan

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                    
Taliban and Pashtuns in Afghanistan

Central Asia has some inhabitants who believe they were descended from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.
 They are Pashtuns and have been living in Afghanistan. Pashtuns claim they are descended from one of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel and that the name of their country is from Afghana, a grandson of King Saul.   In 721 BCE, the Assyrians had attacked Israel and captured the best of the men of the 10 Tribes and took them to their land as slaves. The Jewish history therefore is 2,500 years of being in Afghanistan.  According to their history, they arrived after the Babylonian Exile of 597 and 586 BCE when they attacked and took away   about 10,000 Jewish prisoners of Judah, which was the southern half of Israel.  If they are from this exile, they would be of the Tribe of Judah and a few from the tribe of Benjamin, who were not lost. Judah was made up of the largest tribe, Judeans.  Then again, they could have been captured from Israel at that time from those that were lucky enough to have remained.                                            
                       Descendants of King of Israel Saul

1   King of Israel Saul b: in abt 10000 BCE
.   2     [1] Michal the First, Daughter of Saul
.....   +[2] King of Israel David b: in 1000 BCE Bethlehem
. *2nd Husband of [1] Michal the First, Daughter of Saul:
..... +Phalti
.    2   King at Mahanaim Eshbaal
.  2   Merab
..... +[2] King of Israel David b: in 1000 BCE Bethlehem
.  2   Jeremiahin Pashtun
.....      3        Afghana Pashtun, Commander in Chief
The Jews, not the Pashtuns,  date their entrance to Afghanistan back to the 7th century when Islamists left Saudi Arabia to convert the world.  Jews living in Saudi Arabia had to convert to Islam or flee upon pain of death.  Jews that have been living in Ghor, Afghanistan are thought to be from those who came early on.

Jewish cemetery in Herat, Afghanistan
 In 1946, a Jewish cemetery was discovered here in Ghor and the earliest tombstones date from the 8th century,  752-753.  The latest date was from 1012 to 1249.  The inscriptions on the tombstones are in Hebrew, Aramaic and Judeo-Persian, a language with elements of medieval Persian and also having Hebrew-Aramaic parts.  It was written in Hebrew script, and spoken by the members of the local Jewish community.
Jews were known to also be living in Afghanistan in early medieval times, but what happened to them by the 12th century is unknown.  Since Islam came into being in the 7th century, no doubt they all were either forced to convert, were killed or were forced to leave.

As far as all Afghanis goes, —A study by The Genographic Project has found that the majority of all known ethnic Afghans share a unique genetic heritage derived from a common ancestral population that most likely emerged during the Neolithic revolution and the formation of early farming communities. Through detailed DNA analysis of samples from 27 provinces, the Genographic team found the inter-Afghan genetic variability to be mostly attributed to the formation of the first civilizations in the region during the Bronze Age. (That would be from about 3150 BCE.)   [from "WASHINGTON (March 28, 2012)].... "We now know that major cultural evolutions and prehistoric technological advancements, followed later by migrations and conquests, have left traceable records in the Afghans’ DNA, giving us an amazing insight into the origin of this population,” said Haber."
RASHI-aka Rabbi Solomon Yitzhaki (1040-1105)
 To compare Europe with the East, it was in the 11th century that RASHI, the great Jewish biblical commentator,  was born in France and then studied and taught  in the Rhineland.  He traces his family tree back to King David.
Ghenghis Khan-c1162 to August 18, 1227
Genghis Khan invaded the land in 1222, making Jewish communities reduced in size to isolated pockets.  The important Jewish centers were in Kabul, Herat, Ghazni and Balkh.   Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, is 3,500 years old.  That means the city was started in the year 1,485 BCE, a little before Moses was born.   ""The Jews had formed a community of leather and karakul merchants, poor people and money lenders alike. The large Jewish families mostly lived in the border city of Herat, while the families' patriarchs traveled back and forth on trading trips across the majestic mountains of Afghanistan on whose rocks their prayers were carved in Hebrew and sometimes even Aramaic, moving between the routes on the ancient silk road."
There have been Jews living in Afghanistan in the 19th century who were an extension of the Persian Jewish community.  Most Afghan Jews spoke Judeo-Persian, and their religious rites were those of the Persian Jews, but they did not study the Talmud, probably because they didn't know about them.    They continued to live in a medieval atmosphere and had been confined in their ghettos. By living in Persia for so long, they missed out on the continued thinking and development of Judaism of their distant peers.  Nothing improved for them by moving to Afghanistan, at least religiously.  You could tell who was Jewish because they had to wear black turbans.

 There actually have been 2 Talmuds.  One is the Babylonian and the other is the Palestinian.  The Babylonian is the more popular one.  They are collections of the records of academic discussions and of the judicial administration of Jewish LAW by the generations of scholars and jurists in many academies and in more than one country during several centuries after 200 CE.  This is when the book, the Mishnah was completed, also.  Each Talmud is made up of the Mishnah together with a gemara. which is both a commentary on and a supplement to the Mishnah.  Both Talmuds contain non-legal or aggadic digressions.  The writers mentioned in the Palestinian Talmud all lived before 400 CE.  Those of the Babylonian Talmud lived before 500 CE.  These are like the last words on Jewish law and rational thinking.

In the 20th century, Jews arrived from Central Asia fleeing Russian repression, and later there were those fleeing from communist threat.

  There were some 40,000 Jews in Afghanistan a century ago.  Among them were many prosperous merchants.  After 1870 there were several successive governmental measure of repression on these Jews.  In the mid 1930's, it seems the hand of Hitler seeped into to this country as well and these measures, as those happening in Germany, reduced the Jewish population. In 1948, about 5,000 Jews were living in Afghanistan.   Nearly all emigrated to Israel after the foundation of the State in 1948, though some did move to India for economic reasons.  In the 70s, some 300 Jews were still in Afghanistan, and most left after the Soviet invasion of 1979.   Only about  50 Jews lived in Afghanistan by 1990.  So go the Jews, also goes the good of the state.  Look what's happened since then.  By 2007, there was one Jew left in Kabul, Zablon Simintov,* who continued to take care of his synagogue.
King Zaher Shah took over in 1933-1935 and had liked the Jews well enough and so protected them.  Jews then had a certain degree of religious freedom.  They attended their synagogues and were observant Jews.

Jews dressed quite similar like the surrounding Islamic population.  They spoke Judea-Persian instead of Urdu which  is not a language in Afghanistan Pasthos, but of people including Pashtos  in India.   The Dari language is similar to Farsi and is spoken so at that time either Dari or Pastho may have been spoken by Jews in Afghanistan.   They used Hebrew in the synagogue and in religious studies, just like Americans do.
Young Afghani-American Jewish lady 
An American Afghani woman said that she wants her children to know that their ancestors came from Kabul, Afghanistan.                                              
Kabul neighborhood 

 Her mother and family immigrated from Afghanistan to the USA in 1964 along with other Jews.  Her ancestors had left good but simple living conditions, nothing fancy.  Their homes were considered middle-class.  Her grandfather and great grandfather had been in the textile business.  Afghan Jews left their country because they wanted to have a better life and education for their children.  Perhaps they saw the eventual Taliban developing and fighting in their future.
Taliban terrorism of which some Pashtuns have joined

Today's modern war is taking place in Afghanistan where Russians fought and now Americans fight terrorists such as ISIS.  The most recent error was in Americans bombing a hospital in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan  belonging to Doctors Without Borders, thinking they were hitting ISIS terrorists.  Afghanistan has turned into a battleground.  

At any rate, "Thus, Itzhak Ben-Zvi, the second President of Israel, in his 1957 book The Exiled and the Redeemed, writes that Hebrew migrations into Afghanistan began: "with a sprinkling of exiles from Samaria who had been transplanted there by Shalmaneser, King of Assyria (719 BC) [...] The Afghan tribes, among whom the Jews have lived for generations, are Moslems who retain to this day their amazing tradition about their descent from the Ten Tribes. It is an ancient tradition, and one not without some historical plausibility... if the Afghan tribes persistently adhere to the tradition that they were once Hebrews and in course of time embraced Islam, and there is not an alternative tradition also existent among them, they are certainly Jewish." (p. 176)
In the 2000s, the "lost tribes" hypothesis was popularized by Shalva Weil, an anthropologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, In 2010, The Observer under the title "Pashtun clue to lost tribes of Israel" claimed that "Some leading Israeli anthropologists believe that, of all the many groups in the world who claim a connection to the 10 lost tribes, 
the Pashtuns, or Pathans, have the most compelling case" and on a planned study on the ancestry of the Afridi Pashtuns (while noting that "A previous genetic study in the same area did not provide proof one way or the other"), also citing Weil as saying "Of all the groups, there is more convincing evidence about the Pathans than anybody else, but the Pathans are the ones who would reject Israel most ferociously. That is the sweet irony".
Not entirely, Dr. Weil.  A few are seeing their history and are cheering for Israel.  They're sharing their information with each other.  The tide may be turning.  
Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
*  (
H. Shah, Pashto


  1. Hi, i am a Pashtun (a proper one) from Pakistan. That Indian-Pathan, claiming to be Afridi, based his research on Indian Pathans, who do not speak Pashto nor they follow our culture and are diluted beyond recognition. Our elders in my areas, do not deny the claim of being descendants of Bani Isreal, they own it.

    The earliest written book of Pashto language available to us , written by Pashtun saint Akhund Darweza in 16th century, mentions that Pashtuns claim to be from Bani Israel.

  2. Thanks for the information, Baz gul. Yes, I am convinced that some Pashtun tribes are from Bani Israel. My father and his male ancestors share their Y haplogroup with a Pashtun who has had his DNA tested. Their haplogroup is Q. Our Jewish line is Q1b1a. A few Pashtuns and even Saudi Arabians have had their DNA tested (ours at Family Tree DNA from Houston, Texas) and they also are connected to Q. My wish is that more Pashtuns from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India would test so that we could learn more. I admire your people for continuing different cultural parts of Judaism that show they retain that connection.

  3. we are Israelites...u jews might get convinced after a few centuries prhapes, but we are convinced in this regard...the opinion of our forefathers about our originality is more certain for us than some other british or french scholars,,who are they to tell me who i am!!! even Mohammad knew it when our eldr Kish,later renamed by the prophet as Qais, went to accept him as God's prohet...when u jews(cousins) get convinced, then come to us, we'll tell u what to do next.

  4. I convinced you were from the 10 Lost Tribes of the 12 Tribes of Israel. So is Dr. Shalva Weil, I believe of Jerusalem who has studied the Pashtuns and visited them in person. I'm very happy to know that your people have kept their history and you and other know about it. This happened most likely when the Assyrians attacked Israel in 722 BCE and then the next year in 721 BCE and took away Jews from Israel as slaves. That was 2,738 years ago, almost 3,000 years. Don't hold your breath waiting for us to accept Islam as a religion to replace Judaism, though. That won't happen. Instead, look at the parts of both religions that we have in common. One major important fact is that we both believe in ONE G-d, something we both learned from Abraham. Yes, we are cousins, cousins from Israel. Now, what would help modern science today would be if Pashtuns would take DNA tests that would tell us more about our ancient connections. Some Pashtuns have done this, but I'm sure that it would be helpful if more took the test. It does not involve any blood. It is done by swabbing the inside of your mouth and then sending the swab back to the science lab. I can tell you the name of an important Muslim man that has done this whose mother is a Pashto, and he knows a lot about it. Thanks for your message.