I found this article written by Dr. Antonio Hernandez in June 2005 is very interesting. It sheds some light on where they are now.
The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel
There is fascinating evidence that the Lost Tribes of Jews do exist today.
Of the twelve tribes making up the Southern and Northern Kingdoms of Israel (thirteen if one counts the Tribe of LEVI as a tribe), nine are said to be "lost". (One of them, DAN, was found in the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia in the early 1980s, and are now relocated in Israel.)
In the 8 century B.C., the Assyrians moved on the Northern kingdom of Israel_ the ancestral home of the ten tribes plus the tribe of LEVI. The Assyrians first enslaved and later scattered the Ten Tribes. The record is clear: these Israelites spread, settled certain regions, and remained alive. For an anthropologist or historian, the proof of extinction of a people must be inarguable. This proof does not exist with the Lost Tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel ; in fact, the opposite is true.
But there is fascinating evidence that the Lost Tribes of Jews do exist today. It must be remembered that Mosaic Law, the modern Jewish Halachah, was dictated or written ca. 1100 B.C. With that in mind, it must then be noted that the Diaspora of the Northern Tribes is not to be confused with the original Babylonian Diaspora.
While not lost in the sense of lost civilizations, the accepted meaning is that the nine tribes dissipated into the global community, beyond recognition. The tribes of JUDAH, BENJAMIN and LEVI are called by the prophet Ezekiel the "Staff of Judah"; the ten tribes are collectively called the "Staff of Joseph". In the end, all tribes are reunited and the two staves are joined once again. The 10 Lost Tribes are:
2. REUVEN (REUBEN or RUBEN)
3. SIMON (SHIMON)
5. DAN (found and confirmed, late 1980s)
6. ZEBULON (ZEBULUN, ZEVULON, a.k.a. brother to NAFTALI tribe)
7. ISSACHAR (a.k.a. YITZACHAR)
8. MANASSEH (MENASHE)
This list does not count the priestly and priest-assistant 'tribe' of LEVI.
Let us parse carefully the bare facts and findings:
1. According to accepted lore, King Solomon died 2,900 years ago, roughly ca. the year 895 B.C. He left behind a son named Afghan (Aván), about whom we shall later read more. The North Kingdom consisted of the ten tribes; the South Kingdom was the home of the other tribes, JUDAH and BENJAMIN. Most Jews today claim descent from JUDAH, rightly or wrongly.
2. The kingdoms split and the Assyrians took the ten lost tribes into captivity. It is possible the Assyrians reached Europe in their march west. 722_721 B.C. are the accepted dates for the actual diaspora of the lost tribes. By this time, many Jews had been assimilated by the Assyrians anyway. Interestingly, Assyrian friezes and bas relief show the Jews wearing full-sized yarmulkes, a sort of ancient identifier easy to recognize today.
3. The Assyrians kept the Samarian (Samaritan) Jews– that is, the native Israelite Jews from the Northern capital city of Samaria– to serve in the military as charioteers. The Israelite Tribes' capital city was Samaria; Jerusalem was the Southern Kingdom's capital. In modern Uzbekistan, which was once part of the USSR and is home to the great cities of Bokhara and Samarkand (which is Uzbekistani for "Samarian City"), there is a Jewish enclave still in existence, comprised of Samarian Jews. They live mainly in Samarkand, which is named after them. This gives the lie to the thought that modern Samaritans are separate from and enemies of the Jews, for they are Jews too. Uzbekistan, which lies precisely north of Iran, is a fascinating region, a prime stop along the old Silk Road. It is a sort of stop-gap between the Middle East and Eurasia.
4. NAFTALI apparently traveled into Iran and Afghanistan, and was thought to have been lost there. Though the Naftalites could be ancestors of a mysterious community of Jews living in Bokhara, Uzbekistan, this is in doubt: Simcha Jacobovici thinks the mysterious Bokharan Jews are of the tribe of ISSACHAR. But there are many Bokharan Jews who do seem to belong to NAFTALI. The Bokharan Jews resemble Polish or Bulgarian Jews, but could be early Sefardic Jews. One known culture of people not mentioned, the ancient Nabatu (Nabataeans or Nabateans) of Jordan, builders of the city of Petra in Jordan, is not mentioned or addressed by Jacobovici. But these people may well have been of the Tribe of NAFTALI, and their work shows Jewish Greek influence. Jacobovici did find evidence of a people known as Eftalites or Neftalites, whose kingdom spread from Uzbekistan to northwestern India and Nepal from the A.D. 5–6 centuries. Oddly, at the very same time, a kingdom known as the Afridi– presumably the tribe of EPHRAIM– ruled parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan at exactly the same time.
5. NAFTALI (NAFTALI): the hidden Jewish past of Bokhara City and Uzbekistan itself is deep and embarrassing, as Jacobovici discovered. All traces of this history are kept buried. There seems to be a history from the A.D. 6th to 5th centuries, of a Central Asian kingdom known as the Ephtalite or Hephtalite Empire. It is often named but has virtually no history_ but the name reminds one of the Naftalites. Again, this could be one and the same people as the mysterious Nabatu of Petra, Jordan. Most Bokharan Jews of certain origin are now in Israel. Most of these Bokharan Jews seem to be Ashkenazim. Quite a few Naftalite Jews remain in Bokhara, though many are migrating toward Israel. They maintain that they are of the tribe of JUDAH, and perhaps their own tradition should be respected and accepted.
6. DAN: in the early 1990s, Jacobovici and Ashkenazi Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail set out to research the last known locations of each tribe, following the accepted historical routes they are supposed to have taken. In the early 1980s, Jacobovici documented the plight of the Ethiopian Jews, the Falshas, who have since been confirmed as the lost tribe of DAN, and have been airlifted to Israel in their entirety (in 1991). The Falshas, from the area of the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, are accepted as being the sole remnants of the tribe of DAN, though there may very well be Danites among the Lemba Jews of South Africa.
7. MANASSEH (MENASHE): near the Gaza Strip there exists a community of Jews from the India-Burma border area, mainly from India, and are assumed by Israelis to be Thai guest workers. Calling themselves the M_n-mase, they are believed to be the lost tribe of MANASSEH (MENASHE). Most of these people remain in Manipur, India. Most compelling about them is that they are guerrillas, fighting for an independent Israeli state in India. In India, the lost tribe of MANASSEH (MENASHE) numbers 1.5 million or more. They have fought for an independent Israeli state within India, and are much hated by their neighbors. They look Burmese or Thai, and are regarded as alien trespassers. They are aware that they follow Mosaic Law, and once had priests (LEVI kohanim) among them. It is odd that there are numerous of these same people living in Bombay– though identifying with the ZEBULUN tribe, they look Indian and refer to themselves simply as bene Israel. Most compelling is that they are aware that they are not bene Yehudi (Judaean) Jews, but bene Israeli Jews. These Bombay Jews claim their ancestors were shipwrecked Israelites who had sailed from Israel 2,000 years ago; they carefully distinguish themselves from the Bene Yehudi, whom they consider "descendants of Indian Jews originally from Baghdad."
The presence of Chinese Jews in Kai-feng (see 9 below) made scholars think that the tribe of MANASSEH (MENASHE) had also reached China. The tribe of ZEBULUN (ZEVULON) is the brother tribe of NAFTALI (NAFTALI). The Zebulunites known to exist today in Bombay, India, numbering some 5,000-6,000, are probably one and the same as the Menassehites. They have a special devotion toward the prophet Elijah, and believe Elijah was taken up into heaven in God's chariot from Bombay, India.
8. NAFTALI (NAFTALI) seemed to have reached China. In the city of Kai-feng there exists a community of Jewish descent, known today as the "Jews of Kai-feng" referenced simply as Chinese Jews. These people are labeled variously as Ju-dai, Yo-da, or Yu-dai, meaning "Jew". These Chinese Jews seem fully Chinese, but many have Semitic features and sentiments. They ardently desire to go to Israel, mainly because of their feeling of spiritual isolation. Among the Chinese Jews there were many synagogues and rabbis until the start of the cultural revolution. One old Chinese Jewish man stated that the synagogues fell into ruin after the community was scattered and the rabbis left. Another elderly Chinese Jew, when asked if he was "Yo-dai" (another linguistic variant), he replied in the affirmative, adding enthusiastically in heavily accented English, "I am Jewish, I am Jewish!"
9. ZEBULUN (ZEVULON): At the same time the so-called "Nephtalite" Empire was ruling central Asia, an empire known as Z_vula was ruling in adjoining parts of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is some speculation that these Zebulunites of Bombay are actually Naftalites, though it seems improbable given the existence of a Zebulunite tribal empire equal to the Naftalites tribal empire. In light of all the Indian and Chinese Jews today, there can be little doubt that at the very least, all these people are Israelite Jews, sharing common stories and heritage. They themselves quash the issue by simply insisting that they are bene Israel, Israeli Jews, without further concern as to tribe.
10. NAFTALI (NAFTALI): Interestingly, the Jews of Bombay think of themselves as descendants of shipwrecked Naftalites. Their cemetery is just outside Bombay, with grave markers that resemble Semitic ship anchors. Oddly, the graves have been shown to be both Naftalite and Zebulunite. Thus the Jews of Bombay are tied to the tribe of MANASSEH (MENASHE). Those of the community of Bombay who have immigrated to Israel immediately moved to the old lands once occupied by ZEBULUN (ZEVULON). There they congregate at Elijah's Cave.
11. EFRAIM: Turkey, Iraq and Syria were once homes to many Jews. Afghanistan (Avánestan) still is home to Jews. The Khyber Pass (in Hebrew, Havor), well known as the only overland route into the Hindu Kush and India, lying in Afghanistan and stretching to Pakistan, is well guarded. The Afghani Pathan people, who call themselves Puchtun, are thought to be Jews but are of uncertain origin. The Pathan Jews believe that King Solomon's son Afghan is their ancestor. Scholars think the Afghani Pathan Jews are of the tribe of EFRAIM, descendants of whom seem most common in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They themselves merely call themselves Mosakhel, descendants of Moses.
12. EFRAIM: Puchtun Jews practice a sort of Judaeo-Islam religion known as Puchtunwali_ it is clearly a stark Old Testament set of laws. These Jews say of themselves that when faced with true issues, they follow Puchtunwali and not the Muslim Koran. Thus they can be said to adhere to Old Testament law, unadorned and unsoftened. The city of Jilalabad in Pakistan is also home to Pathans. The proper Afghani Jewish community fled the country in the 1980s after the Russian invasion. Jacobovici, claiming the tradition that EFRAIM and MENASSEH will lead the exodus back into Israel, points out that the number of Jews and the number of Puchtun in the world today is nearly identical.
13. REUVEN (RUBEN), GAD, and SIMON (SHIMON) as well as EFRAIM, make their home in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The defeated Afghani Taliban regime is made up of such Jews, who are of course practicing Muslims. They do not like talking about their Jewish heritage_ perhaps they are too conscious of it. Nonetheless, the Afghani Jews also call themselves Bani (Bene) Israel, "Israelites". It is odd that these people are some of the most anti-Semitic people on earth.
14. Afghani Jews in Israel live mainly in the city of Tel Aviv today. They chuckle at the memory of the Pathans and the Mosakhel, recalling that these groups thought themselves to be "more Jewish than the Jews." The Pathans seem to be from the tribe of EFRAIM and a few MANASSEH (MENASHE).
15. MANASSEH (MENASHE): 2,300 years ago, Jews in Afghanistan and Pakistan were persecuted. They are absolutely hated there today. Most fascinating of all was the discovery of Buddhist Law petroglyphs, placed there by the Emperor Ashoka in the 4th century B.C., written in Hebrew and Aramaic. It beggars the imagination: Buddhist Dharma written in Aramaic for the sake of Jewish communities in Afghanistan! It suggests that Jews were well known to the Buddhist Indians, and highly regarded by them.
16. LEVI was never found as a tribe per se, nor were self-proclaimed Levites found, other than the Ile de Djerba Kohanim (see 18 below). LEVI is comprised of the descendants of Aharon, the 'brother' of Moses, and his two sons. Levites are priests and priests' attendants, and LEVI is certainly alive and well all over the world. They make up a strong portion of any Jewish community_ even among the Bene Lemba, in which the Kohain ("priests") are called Buba. Thus it is strongly contended that LEVI lives scattered amongst all the Jews, known and unknown.
17. LEVI: Off the coast of Tunisia on the Ile de Djerba (Isla de Yerba), there was discovered an entire community of LEVI Jews. They claim to be ritually pure priests, awaiting the day of the shofar blast that calls all Jews back to Eretz Yisroel (Yisrael) under the Messiah. Then they will be at the ready, eager to serve at the restored Temple in Jerusalem. This Jewish community is famous for its silversmithing, and is generally recognized as the oldest Jewish community on earth. These Kohanim arrived on the island after the destruction of the 1st Temple. Strangely, many of them have Sefardic surnames.
18. ASHER was never found, nor even traces of its possible routes. Scholars expected to find Asherite Levites on the Ile de Djerba_ that is to say, Levites accompanying the Asherites. None were found that could be authenticated in any way. More thoughts about the tribe of ASHER will be offered in the conclusion.
19. MANASSEH (MENASHE): Though the Indian M_nmase Jewish community, the largest by far, was admonished by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail to remain in India until the coming of the Messiah, they are pouring into Israel. It seems that all these scattered Jewish enclaves are anxiously immigrating to Israel- those who are able, in any case. These self-styled Bene Israel Indians (and the Ethiopian Jews back in the 1990s) comprise the largest number of émigrés to Israel.
The tribe of ASHER, if any remnants of it exist, could be anyplace_ or everywhere. Tunisia, Morocco and of course Europe are suspected as the most likely sites for the settlement of ASHER. The Caucasus Mountains in eastern Europe is as likely a place as any for the location of ASHER. Some scholars think the Sefardic Jews are Asherites, though the Sefardim, like all Jews, claim descent from the tribe of JUDAH.
In the Southern United States, from southern Illinois to the Appalachian Mountain region, there exists a group of possible Jews. Known as Melungeons, many of them claim Jewish heritage. They are a perfect example of the trouble in hunting for old cultures; they are so racially mixed that there is no possibility of tracing their true origins without mtDNA testing for the Kohain (Kohen) Modal Haplotite. (This mtDNA result is the only conclusive DNA test to confirm Jewish ethnicity. It is found in more than 50% of the Jewish population of the planet, as opposed to being present in less than 10% of any other given population tested so far.)
Japan has long been suspected as a home of lost tribe communities. The Japanese language has many ancient Semitic words, and Jewish names, such as the surname Katsu ("Katz") and the given name J_shuya, are common. Another instance is the Hebrew term Kissu'i Rosh, meaning "to cover the head", which may have been a sort of title for scribes and rabbis. In Japanese, Hissui (Kissui) Roshi means "jade master".
Japan is famous for its indigenous, Eskimo-like Caucasian tribe called Ainu. There has never been speculation about the Ainu people being one of the Lost Tribes, but interestingly, they follow a general code of conduct similar to the Jewish one, and the men grow great, long beards. Most fascinating of all is the tribe's name: Ainu, which sounds like the Hebrew word for "father", avinu. Though perhaps ASHER landed in Japan, it seems more likely that any Jewish blood in Japan is of the tribes of NAFTALI (NAFTALI), MANASSEH (MENASHE) and ZEBULUN (ZEVULON). It seems ASHER is the most divided_ and perhaps permanently lost_ of the tribes. Japan must also be accepted as a possible haven for post-expulsion Sefardic refugees.
The Bene Lemba Jews of South Africa, scientifically proved to be Jews, are comprised of nearly every tribe, including LEVI. The Lemba seem to be closely related to Afghani/Pathan Jews, as they share surnames with them, such as Tsadikki and Suleimani. The Lemba Jews call themselves not only Bene Lemba but also "Israelites". There is a cause to move the Lemba Tribe in its entirety to Israel, but the Lemba prefer that the Messiah take them there.
Thus ends the search for the lost tribes of Israel. They were there all along, well known throughout history and outcast for their beliefs. Scholars and Jews themselves rejected these peoples' claims to Jewish identity, and Christian explorers are largely responsible for the revelation of many of these Jewish enclaves. It is saddening that most Jewish scholars totally reject the claims of these peoples' Judaism out of hand. But again, to counter the old argument that the Lost Tribes were assimilated, we do not have any proof that these people disappeared. Such proof is needed before a blanket statement as to their extinction can be pronounced.
Prominent Jewish scholars view the newly found peoples as late-coming moochers, seeking refuge in Israel_ or at least in the Jewish community_ to escape persecution in their respective native lands. Such scholars have stated that these 'lost tribe' Jews are no more than outcaste people who cling undeservingly to the Jewish dream. Perhaps the fear among Jewish scholars is that most people on earth will one day be revealed to be Jews!
Nevertheless, scholars who reject the Lost Tribes are at least willing to leave them in peace. They refuse to recognize that the tribes are not at peace, since in their "native" lands, they are as hated as any Jews have been. It is no wonder they wish to rejoin their brethren. Those Jews who seek to assist Lost Tribe folk are not helping. They are insisting on inflicting formal conversion ceremonies to "bring back into Judaism" these Lost Tribe peoples. And that is in itself a vote of no confidence for the Lost Tribes peoples.
§The SAMARITANS, considered by Jews to be unclean, arrogant heretics and excommunicated enemies of Israel due to alleged Assyrian allegiance, continue to live and practice the ancient form of Judaism in Syria, Israel and parts of Uzbekistan. The Jews claim that today Samaritan practice is too Muslim, just as they outcaste them originally for allegedly cooperating with the Assyrian Empire. In Uzbekistan, they have, of course, assimilated into the general Jewish population– much of which was probably Samarian to begin with: and Samaria was the capital of the Israelite Jews' Northern Kingdom.
Correct history for the Samarians (Samaritans) tells us that the city of Samaria, Northern Israelite Kingdom, was built on a hill overlooking the main road to Jerusalem. The site was chosen by the Israelite King Omri, who reigned from 876 to 869 B.C. King Omri made Samaria the capital of the Northern Kingdom.
The Assyrian Conquest is related biblically at II Kings (17: 1-6, 24). The Assyrians replaced the Israelite Jews they expelled, with peoples from other conquered lands. Nevertheless, the remaining Samaritan Jews preserved the Samaritan Torah, allegedly an older written version of the modern Jewish Torah.
After the Assyrians fell, Samaria passed to the Babylonians and successive conquerors of Palestine. The Romans took the region and renamed the city "Sebaste"_ the modern village of Sebastiyeh (Sabastiyah) preserves the name. Today, Samaritan Jews continue to follow their version of the Torah. There are few left today, and these make their home near their ancient temple site at Mt. Gerizim, near N_bulus in the West Bank.
What is fascinating is that Jacobovici found among the Pathans and Puchtunwali practice the same kind of unforgiving Torah law as practiced by Samaritans. It is this fierce element that causes many scholars to misjudge the religious practice of Samaritan Jews as being tinged with Islam, though Islamic culture has had a deep impact on Samaritans in general.
The Jewish Historical Outline Leading Up To the Lost Tribes' Exile
Events below cover nearly all of the millennium from 1,100 to 100 B.C.:
Ca. 1100 = Moses' time, time of Pharaoh Rameses III. Note that the following books were composed roughly in this time, ± 100 years: Torah, Vedas, Gathas, and Avesta. This makes an inexorable link between the Scriptures and religions of the Jews, Hindus, Zoroastrians and Mithraics.
1000 = Prince Solomon builds the first temple. King David reigns, but has been told he is too impure to build. He provides for the building, but never gets to build.
Ca. 922-895 (?) = Solomon dies, David long gone.
722-721 = Assyrians sack Northern Kingdom of Israel, scattering the Ten Tribes of the North.
600s = Assyrians die out, but Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon takes Jerusalem, starting the Babylonian Exile.
500s = Jews in Babylonian Exile, by the Waters of Babylon [Iraq]. The synagogue/rabbinical traditions begin. Note also the following Scriptures were composed at this time: Confucian Books, Tao Te Ching, and the Dharmapada.
539 = Jews are freed by the Persian king who led the Babylonian Conquest, and are allowed to return to Jerusalem. There they meet the Samaritans, none of whom ever left. The second temple is started, but Samaritans resent the Jews coming back and taking everything. The Jews make war with Samaritans that will last to this day.
516 = The second temple is completed. According to the writers of the time, it is a sad sight compared to Solomon's Temple, which was totally destroyed, with pieces of it being carried back to Iraq.
Ca. 500s to 200s = Existence of "Neftalite" (from the Caucasus to Afghanistan) and "Zavulanite" (from Afghanistan to Pakistan/India) Kingdoms. These are presumed to be remnants of the lost tribes in toto_ but very likely not representative of all tribes.
Ca. 300s = Emperor Ashoka, in making/distributing the Dharma stelae, sends several written in Aramaic to the region of Afghanistan, proving it was still a well-known land of the Jews at this time. (One such stele was located by Jacobovici in the early 1990s, and is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic.)
A journey to search my soul
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