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The Problem With Constructing A History Of The African Jewish Identity

June 1, 2011

Though there are many examples and sources documenting the supposed oral history of the South Africa Lemba, we will base our examination from the information or “evidences” presented in the following article which serves as a representative sample for a jumping off point to discuss the problems that are inherent in the constructions or inventions of various African Jewish historiographical schemes:

Black Jews of South Africa: biological and cultural constructions of identity – November 19, 2002

Oral history.-The oral history of the Lemba forms the basis for most theories concerning their origins. Zimbabwean Lemba have a tradition that they came from the north and that their fathers did skilled metalwork for the Arabs (Hughes et al. 1976). An extensive summary of southern African Lemba oral history by Van Warmelo (1974) indicates that the Lemba ancestors are believed to have come from a huge town across the seas, where there were many craftsmen in metalwork, pottery, textiles, and shipbuilding. They came to southern Africa to trade, especially for gold. With time, they left behind men with the unsold cargo, establishing posts on the coast and further inland. One day they received the shattering news that their hometown had been taken by the enemy, and they could not return. They thus began taking local wives, and the different trading posts marked the establishment of the clans known today.  More detailed descriptions of Lemba oral history by Professor Mathivha of the Lemba Cultural Association (Mathivha 1992) suggest that the Jewish ancestors of the Lemba, as traders in the 7th century BC, migrated from “the north” to Yemen, where they established both a large community at Sena (Sa’na) and several trading posts along the eastern African coast. The Jewish community of Sena (Sa’na), termed “Basena,” was later expanded by exiles escaping the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. At some later stage “trouble broke out between the Basena and the Arabs,” resulting in the migration of some Basena to Africa. Here the group split into two, one moving westward to settle in Ethiopia (the “Falashas”), the other (the Lemba) moving southward, finally to establish communities in southern Africa. Dates for the migration from Yemen appear to be inconsistent, and those quoted for settlement en route to southern Africa range from 450 BC to 50 AD (Mathivha 1992).


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  1. Are you an Ashkenazi Jew descended from Japheth? Ashkenaz whose father is Gomer is the grandson of Japheth according to the Bible. (Gen. 10:3) I see that you visited my website and posted the link to your site because it appears you want to engage in discourse on this very controversial matter. I will certainly challenge all of your ‘antitheses’, as you state on this site.

    • Mr. Webster,
      It is my expectation that an examination of the facts of this hypothesis will be a objective, rational, reasonable, and logical exercise of our mind and senses in an effort to arrive at the truth. Such an examination does not depend on ones politics, ethnicity, national origin, color, race, religion, or sex. I am willing to discuss the merits or demerits of my hypothesis by the preponderance of credible evidence brought to bear. If there is anything of the evidences I submit that you would like to affirm or challenge, please cite the text or quotation in question, submit your reasons and corresponding evidences supporting your rational for or against, pro or con. This is a scholarly enterprise rather than I theological one. Although it is realized that the science behind truth often offends our religious sensibilities and ideas about our worldview, it is hoped that the truth will triumph over fiction and that mutual respect will characterize all discussions on this subject. I welcome your participation and engagement.

      In the document, I submitted is a description or presentation of the popular history said to originate from a Lemba oral tradition of their supposed origins. Jews historically have three specific cultural identity markers that are said to distinguish them communally and culturally from other peoples and societies; Sabbath observance, circumcision, and food laws. If we take these identity markers as a way to determine Jewishness or Jewish affinities then we may have to include practically the whole of Africa since food taboos, 7th day Sabbath observance and circumcision can all be found in some degree in many indigenous African people groups. In the case of the Lemba, Sabbath observance according to the Jewish manner or custom is rather recent and is not recorded or observed in any ancient Lemba anthology. Although circumcision in found, the particularly Jewish prescription that it be done on the 8th day is also a recent custom also not indicated in any ancient Lemba anthology. The fact that the Lemba are generally a genetically lactose intolerant group seems to distinguish them from other world Jewish communities and some indigenous African groups who are otherwise lactose tolerant. The latter is based on my own observations that still require corroborating documentation. My point is though the Lemba do display some outward semblance of Jewish tradition; it is not something that uniquely distinguishes them from other African groups. The fact is, Jewish identity markers as practiced by the Lemba today are rather a recent innovation to their traditional practices that have been spurred on by recent Jewish identity claims. Yet because THE INTERPRETATION of DNA studies showing evidence of the CMH is said to point to a supposed Jewish migration from the north into Africa seem to override any other scientific consideration as to origins. Would you care to comment on these points?
      To facilitate this discussion it is not necessary to provide argument without proof. It is sufficient to concede a point for which no documentation, evidence, or proof that can be found to support or debunk the objective facts even if such facts contradict or are not compatible with our religious views and other convictions. Let us be intellectually honest to admit to the facts of the discussion. If science cannot support the facts of a case, then we must recognize that what we have is not facts, but myth.

      See Lemba Religion. Ancient Judaism or Evolving Lemba Tradition? Author: Le Roux, Magdel, Source: Religion and Theology, Volume 11, Numbers 3-4, 2004 , pp. 313-330

  2. Roman historian Tacitus wrote that many of his time believed that the Jews “were a race of Ethiopian origin.”

    The Bible classifies the Ethiopians & Jews together, “Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord.” (Amos 9:7)

    Black Paul is mistaken for an “Egyptian” and declares himself to be a “Jew.” (Acts 21:37-39, 22: 2,3)

    Persia and Ashanti

    It has also been speculated that the Jewish presence and influence was greatly helped by the ancient gold trade between Persia and Africa.

    Jews were the main intermediaries of this trade in the medieval ages since most Muslims (due to Islamic laws prohibition on usury) were wary of its usurious dimensions.

    These Jewish itinerant traders came to rely on contacts with the various Jewish communities of West African who proved no mean help in sourcing the scarce commodity. Thus, for instance, the silk of the Royal Kente cloths of the Ashanti reputedly came from China.

    Various historical accounts claim that Jewish travelers from Persia had organized exchanges of Chinese silk for gold in the Kingdom of Ghana; the Ashanti needed the silk for weaving Kente cloth and the Jews need gold for their intrinsic and fiscal value. It is said that the Ashanti words for numbers relate to those in Parsi, the language of Persia. See Lichtblau.


    Haplogroup E3B
    The E3b haplogroup has been observed in all Jewish groups world wide. It is considered to be the 2nd most prevelent haplogroup amoung the Jewish population.
    All the major studies agree that E-M35 is the second highest in prevalence next to J, for “Founding Jewish Lineages.”

    It is found in moderate amounts in all Jewish populations, from Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Kurdish, Yemen, Samaritan and even among Djerba Jewish groups.

    The scientific consensus is that Haplogroup E3b (M35) appears to have originated in East Africa, but has been carried from there to the Near East and then on to North Africa and Europe. Today it is most common in East Africa, North Africa, the Near East and around the Mediterranean.

    Haplogroup J
    Haplogroup J (previously known as HG9 or Eu9/Eu10) is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. t is subdivided into two subclades: haplogroup J2, defined by the M172 marker, and haplogroup J1, defined by the M267 marker.

    Of special interest are maps that show the geographical spread of the J haplogroup. J1 and J2 are both common in southern Europe, central Europe, the Mediterranean region, and Africa. The J haplogroup is considered to be a signature gene of Jewish ancestry and the cohen modal gene happens to be a subgroup of J.

    In fact, the highest frequencies of J1 (M267) are seen in the Middle East, north Africa, and Ethiopia. See (Thomas et al. 1999). J2 (M172) also exists in significant proportions across Africa especially among the semitic speaking peoples of Tigriniya, Amhara, and Oromiya.

    The J1’s from the Middle East and North Africa seem to be distinguishable from the rest of J’s by having YCAII=22,22. Behar et al found that a significant proportion of the Jewish population of Europe (more than 20%) carry the J1 haplogroup. The other 20% carry the J2 haplogroup. See Behar et al Hum Genet (2004) 114 : 354–365

    Cohen Modal Haplotype

    The presence among the Lemba of a disproportionate number of men carrying a particular polymorphism on the Y chromosome known as the Cohen modal haplotype suggests an ancestral link to the Jewish population. One sub-clan within the Lemba, the Buba clan, is considered by the Lemba to be their priestly clan. Among a small sample of the Buba, fifty-two percent of males were found to carry the Cohen modal haplotype CMH, which is generally suggestive of Y-DNA haplogroup J, but notably prevalent among Jewish Kohanim, or priests.

    Decline of the Black Jews of Africa

    Many reasons have been sought for the decline and virtual disappearance of Africa’s once thriviing Jewish communities of black Jews. Many see the beginning of this decline as contemporaneous with the advent of the Islamic religion in Africa.

    Some historical accounts highlight the fact that black Jews were die-hard nationalistic traditionalists and had led the black African resistance against the influx of the black muslim jihadists and their new interpretation of morality. The most notableof these black Jewish nationalists was Queen Kahina Dahiya Bint Thabitah ibn Tifan otherwise known as El-Kahina. A descendant of one of the priestly Black Jewish families of North Africa, Kahina led the nationalist resistance against the muslim invasion until her defeat at the hands of Hassan Ibn Numan. See Margolis, “History of Jewish people”, 1927 pages 278-279. See also Remy Ilona, “The Igbos : Jews in Africa?” volume 1, Research Findings Historical Links, Commentaries, Narratives,” 2004, Mega Press Limited, Abuja, Nigeria.

    Amidst this tumult, the Jews of Northern and West Africa were given a choice of conversion or emigration. Many left for the deeper forest recesses of West Africa seeking the peace and tranquility that appeared to elude them in each generation. The late incursions by the colonialist christian elements of Europe did not make matters any better. There seems to have been a direct link between the incursion of relatively modern religions in Africa and the decline of the ancient practise of the Hebrews which had a pride of place in Africa, its mother land.

    For instance the Jewish enclaves of Qamnurya or Naghira in the area of modern Senegal was destroyed completely in the wake of sectarian unrest. Similarly, Al-Maghili a prominent black Muslim noble not only destroyed the Jewish enclaves of Tuat in the old Mali empire, he convinced other potentates throughout the Western Sudan to banish Jews from the empire’s cities. See Remy Ilona, supra.

    Lichtblau speculates that: although “…Jewish presence is also confirmed by numerous surviving accounts of Portuguese and other European visitors in the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as North African and Arab historical records… gradually most of these communities disappeared. Since they existed largely in isolation, there was a good deal of intermarriage which for a while reinforced their influence and expansion. As a result they were increasingly viewed as a threat by Muslim rulers, and most of the Jewish communities and nomad groups south of the Atlas mountains were either forced to convert to Islam or massacred; the remainder fled to North Africa, Egypt or the Sudan, and a few also to Cameroon and Southern Africa.”

    • The facts as you supply them and as they appear are incontestable. Thank you for the documentation you supplied. They should be of great help for anyone to establish a thesis of a Jewish Africana. They clearly show a Jewish presence in Black Africa. This cannot be denied. So I am very pleased to concede this point. My hypothesis does not contend that there are no black or African Jews. My hypothesis merely states that “Jews” in whatever way one considers to be a Jew either genetically or culturally, originate IN AFRICA not Europe, Palestine or anywhere else. The only difference is my hypothesis ALSO proposes the same in the case of the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH), that it ORIGINATES in the Lemba (or Africa), not from the Ashkenazi or Sephardi communities. What is controversial about my hypothesis is the idea that the CMH ORIGINATES in Africa is contrary to the popular notion that says the Lemba come from ancient Israel or Palestine. Please consider my rationale for this in my May 17, 2011 blog post “Are ye not as the children of Cush unto Me, O children of Israel?”

  3. I also ask that you deal with these facts also, Mr. Davis:

    Historian Joel Augustus Rogers asserts: “The characters of the Bible are largely Negroes…”

    Tacitus, the Roman historian of 90 A.D., says that the Romans of his day popularly believed that the Jews, which then abounded in Europe, came from Ethiopia, the land of the Blacks…Chaldea, the land from which the Jews originated, was also a Negro land, hence Abraham might also have been black.” Rogers knew Abraham was Black. He postulates for hypothetical purposes.

    The Koran reads: “And he (Moses) drew forth his hand out of his bosom and behold it appeared white unto the spectators.” (Chap. Vii, p. 128) “And put thy right hand under thy left arm; it shall come forth white.” (Sale: Al Koran, p. 257. 1784.)

    Sale adds: “There is a tradition that Moses was a very swarthy man.” (p. 128)

    Sir T.W. Arnold says, “According to Mohammedan tradition, Moses was a black man.” (The Preaching of Islam, p. 106. Westminster, 1896.)

    The Vulgate and the modern Bible say that Moses’ hand was leprous as snow,” but the Septuagint Bible, which is the oldest translation, dating to about 150 B.C., accords with the Koran. The Septuagint says that Moses’ hand became as snow,” and that when he placed it in his bosom the second time “it was restored to the complexion of the other flesh.” (Exod. IV. 6.) Here is the clearest inference that the miracle lay in turning black skin, white, and then changing it to black again. I have similar references on this subject.

    The argument so often made that Miriam’s objection to Moses’ Ethiopian wife was one of color, is wrong. There was no color prejudice then. Besides the Jews at thaty time were also colored. Miriam’s objection must have been a national or tribal one, the same as exists among the Negroes on the West African coast now, and among the Jews themselves in India.

    Tacitus says: “Many again say that they (the Jews) were a race of Ethiopian origin.” (Book V, Chap. 2)

    F. Ratzel says: “The entire Semitic and Hamitic population of Africa was a mulatto character which extends to the Semites outside of Africa.” (History of Mankind, Vol. II, p. 246)

    M. Fishberg, a leading Jewish authority, says: “Contrary to generally accepted theory that they (the Jews) have maintained their racial purity for centuries by modern anthropological methods has shown that the physical type of the Jews bears a striking resemblance to the ethnic types encountered in indigenous races and peoples among whom they happen to live.” (North African Jews, p. 1, New York, 1906.) That is to say that in the black man’s land the Jew is black; in the brown man’s land, brown; and in the white man’s land, white, etc. Fishberg gives abundant illustration of this by pictures. For the Negro Jew, see his book “The Jew,” pp. 120-134, 146, 149, 174, 178, 181. F. Hertz says: “In China, the Jews are hardly to be distinguished from the Chinese; in Africa they look like the Negro….”

    Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 11, 31) Godfrey Higgins, a careful and reliable English antiquary says, “The Chaldees were originally Negroes.” (Anacalypsis, Vol. II, p. 364. New York, 1927) For the number of Jews, who entered and left Egypt, see Gen. 46:27 and Exod., 12:37. For the number of years in Egypt: Exod. 12:20.

    As regards the Negro origin of the Jew, Count Abraham Gurowski, of Poland, says, “Numbers of Jews have the greatest resemblance to American mulattoes. Sallow carnation complexion, thick lips, criped black hair. Of all the Jewish population scattered over the globe one-fourth dwells in Poland. I am therefore acquainted with their features. On my arrival in this country (the United States) I took every light colored mulatto for a Jew.” (America and Europe, p.117, N.Y., 1857)

    Sir H. H. Johnson attributes much of the prejudice against the Jew to the latter’s Negro origin. He says: “In the Jew, as in the Egyptian and the Moor, there is a varying but still discernible element of the Negro, derived in the case of the Jew from the strong infusion of Elamite blood and in the case of the Moor from the obvious connection with the Negro….” (World Position of the Negro and Negroid, in G. Spiller: universal races Congress, p. 330, London, 1911.) But this viewpoint is wrong. There is very little or no prejudice against the Negro in Europe, outside of England. In Vienna the darkest Negroes are welcomed in places from which the fairest Jew is barred. Morever, this opposition against the Jew is to be found even in the black and brown men’s lands. Algeria was recently the scene of much anti-Jewish rioting.

    For the classing together of Jew and Ethiopian, see Amos 9:7
    (Amos 9:7: “Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?”)

    For a discussion at length of the Egyptian and Ethiopian origin of the Jews, see: Gerald Massy: A Book of the Beginnings, Vol. II, pt. 2, pp. 364-441, London 1881. See also Chapter, “Were the Jews Originally Negroes,” pp. 91-95, in Sex and Race, Vol. I, 1941.

    Fishberg says of the Falasha Jews: “They are of the Negro type,…the large lips, the prognathism, and frizzly hair, all point to the Negro origin.” (The Jew, p. 147.) I have seen the Falashas in Abyssinia and the Negro Jews in Egypt and the Sudan. West Africa has black Jews also.

    H. Norden says of the Abyssinian Jews, “My stay among them carried something of the quality of interest and excitement of ther imagination with the sight of things excavated after centuries of burial. It formed a bridge from the present to the past. Biblical chronicles were no longer to me merely ancient religious history. They became the records of the life of a people not unlike the Falashas.” (Chap. “Among the Black Jews” in Africa’s Last Empire,” p. 203.)

    Whilst in Ethiopia I visited the Falasha school established by Br. Faitlovich. The boys were all jet-black with wooly hair.

    For the Jewish conquest of Abyssinia see L.J. Morie: Histoire de L’Ethiope, Vol II, p. 181-83, Paris, 1904: African Society Jour., Vol. 28, p. 60)

    The Black Jews of India “are kept at a respectable distance and not permitted to enter the synagogues of the whites nor do they bury their dead in the same cemetery.” (M. Fishberg: The Jew, p. 134: Isaac, I.A. Cochin Jews, 1917.)

  4. And here is an intriguing article from the prestigious New York Times that gives credence to the claims of the Lemba:

    By Nicholas Wade. New York Times, Sunday May, 9th 1999
    The Lemba, a Bantu-speaking people of southern Africa, have a Tradition that they were led out of Judea by a man named Buba. They practice circumcision, keep one day a week holy and avoid eating pork or piglike animals, such as the hippopotamus.

    Several groups around the world practice Judaic rites or claim to be descended from Biblical tribes without having any ancestral Jewish connection. And there is no Buba in the records of Jewish history.

    But the remarkable thing about the Lemba tradition is that it may be exactly right. A team of geneticists has found that many Lemba men carry in their male chromosome a set of DNA sequences that is distinctive of the cohanim, the Jewish priests believed to be the descendants of Aaron.

    The genetic signature of priests- a hereditary caste, different rabbis but with certain ritual roles- is particularly common among Lemba men who belong to the senior of their 12 groups, known as the Buba clan.

    The discovery of the Lemba’s Jewish ancestry has come about through the intertwining of two unusual strands of inquiry. One was developed by geneticists in the United States, Israel and England who wondered what truth there might be to the Jewish tradition that priests are the descendants of Aaron, the elder brother of Moses.

    The other strand was provided by Dr. Tudor Parfitt, director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Dr Parfitt, who has done research among the Lemba for 10 years, believes that he has discovered Senna- Lemba tradition maintains they came from that mysterious northern city and that he can retrace their steps from Senna to Africa, maybe a thousand years ago.

    The genetic side of the story began when Dr. Karl Skorecki, a kidney expert at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, was sitting in a synagogue in Toronto. Dr Skorecki, who is a priest, wondered if a fellow cohen who was being called to attend the first Torah reading might be distantly related to him, as the tradition of priestly descent from Aaron implied.

    He called Dr. Michael F. Hammer of the University of Arizona, an expert who studies the genetics of human populations through the male or Y chromosome. Unlike the genetic material of the other chromosomes, the genetic material on the Y chromosome is not shuffled every generation, obscuring the lines of individual descent. Y-chromosomes are bequeathed from father to son, more or less unchanged apart from the occasional mutation.

    The mutations are particularly helpful for reconstructing population history because each lineage of men has its own distinctive pattern of mutations. It was a Y chromosome study last year that confirmed the oral tradition among the descendants of the slave Sally Hemings that their ancestor was Thomas Jefferson.

    Dr Hammer, Dr Skorecki and their colleagues reported in 1997 that they had analyzed the Y chromosomes of priests and lay Jews. They found that a particular pattern of DNA changes was much more common among the priests than among laymen. The pattern was equally recognizable in Ashkenazic and Sephardic priests, even though these two branches of the Jewish population have long been geographically separated.

    A colleague in Hammer’s and Skorecki’s research was Neil Bradman, a businessman who is now chairman of the Center for Genetic Anthropology at University College, London. Bradman set about making a wider study of Jewish populations around the world through the lens of the Y chromosome technique.

    One recruit to Bradman’s project is David B. Goldstein, a population geneticist at Oxford University in England. Dr. Goldstein set about refining Dr. Hammer’s work so as to develop a better genetic signature of Jewish populations.

    “The problem is there has been intermingling with host populations, and that has obscured their common ancestry,” Dr. Goldstein said.

    He looked at a set of three Y chromosome sites with stable genetic mutations and six sites at which mutations occur quite often, a mix designed to give good resolution between similar Y chromosomes during historical times. The mutations are all at sites that lie outside the genes, and thus do not contribute in any way to the individual’s physical makeup.

    He found a particular set of genetic mutations at these nine sites that was strongly associated with the priestly caste, not so common among lay Jews, and very rare in non-Jewish populations. Unlike forensic DNA markers, which are chosen to be almost wholly specific to individuals, this cohen-associated genetic signature cannot be used to say who is or who is not a priest. But it is highly Diagnostic of whether a population has Jewish ancestry, Goldstein said.

    He finds that 45 percent of Ashkenazi priests and 56 percent of Sephardic priests have the cohen genetic signature, while in Jewish populations in general the frequency is 3 to 5 percent.

    Some of his subjects had the cohen genetic signature but with slight variations caused by mutations. From the pattern and number of mutations, Dr. Goldstein was able to calculate when the present day bearers of the cohen genetic signature and its variations last shared a common ancestor. This date, when all the branches of the family tree coalesce into a single trunk, has a wide range of uncertainty and depends on several assumptions, like the number of years in a human generation and the rate of mutation. But assuming 25 years to a generation on average, Goldstein calculated the coalescence time as 2,650 years ago, or 3,180 years with a 30-year generation time.

    Though they are only rough, these dates make an evocative match with the Jewish tradition that Moses assigned the priesthood to the male descendants of his brother Aaron after the Exodus from Egypt, believed to have occurred some 3,000 years ago. Dr. Goldstein and colleagues published this conclusion last July.

    “In studying the priesthood, we happened into this tool for distinguishing Jewish from non-Jewish populations,” Dr. Goldstein said. As part of Bradman’s project on the relationship of Jewish populations, he then tested DNA samples collected from the Lemba. And last month, at a conference on human evolution held at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, Goldstein reported that 9 percent of Lemba men carried the cohen genetic signature, and of those who said they belonged to the Buba clan, 53 percent had the distinctive sequences. These proportions are similar to those found among the major Jewish populations.

    Because the cohen genetic signature is rare or absent in all non-Jewish populations tested so far, the findings support the Lemba tradition of Jewish ancestry. Goldstein said his findings had been submitted to the in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

    How did a Jewish priestly male chromosome come to be found in a black, Bantu-speaking people that looks very much like its southern African neighbors? Dr. Parfitt, who says he believes he has found the answer, first came across the Lemba while giving a lecture in Johannesburg about Ethiopian Jews. Some people in the audience wearing yarmulkes told him they, too, were Jewish.

    Dr. Parfitt visited their homes, which are in northern South Africa and Zimbabwe. Many of the Lemba, who number more than 50,000 people, are Christians, but they see no contradiction in professing Judaism, too. He learned that they had an enigmatic tradition about their origin: “We came from the north, from a place called Senna. We left Senna, we crossed Pusela, we came to Africa and there we rebuilt Senna.”

    Dr. Parfitt said that he was later traveling in the Hadramawt region, a former site of Jewish communities in Yemen, and mentioned the Lemba tradition of Senna to the religious leader of the holy city of Tarim. The leader was surprised to hear it because, he told Dr.Parfitt, there was a nearby village called Senna.

    “So I went off to find Senna,” Dr. Parfitt said. “It’s very remote and had never been visited by anyone before. The local tradition is that centuries ago the valley had been very fertile irrigated by a dam, the ruins of which are still there. And then the dam burst, they think about a thousand years ago, and the people fled.”

    There is a valley that leads from Senna to a port on the Yemeni coast called Sayhut. If the winds are right, a ship from Sayhut could reach southern Africa in nine days, Dr. Parfitt said. And the valley that leads from Senna to Sayhut is called the Wadi al-Masilah. Parfitt believes that Masilah may be the “Pusela” of the Lemba oral tradition.

    The Lemba have clan names like Sadiqui and Hamisi that are “clearly
    Semitic” and that are also found in the eastern Hadramawt, Dr Parfitt said.

    Dr. Parfitt, who has described his work on the Lemba in a recent book, “Journey to the Vanished City” (Phoenix, London), said he had been excited to hear of Goldstein’s genetic results confirming the Lemba tradition.

    I was strongly criticized by a number of colleagues for listening to this nonsense because they assumed the sense of a different origin had been imposed on the Lemba by missionaries, ” he said. “As an anthropologist, I had a sense one should listen to what people say about themselves and shouldn’t be too arrogant. It turned out that what they are saying about themselves is substantially correct.”

    Dr Parfitt said that in collecting samples from the Lemba – a swab of cells scraped from inside the cheek- he had first explained the purpose of the research to local chiefs and obtained their permission. He then told each individual what was involved, sometimes saying “your blood carries important history, the footprints of your ancestors,” if he could not explain the genetics.

    Being very keen to know where they came from, the Lemba lined up to give samples, Dr. Parfitt said. They were pleased to learn the results that Dr. Parfitt was made an honorary Lemba.

    Dr Parfitt said he was particularly appreciative of the honor because Lemba tradition prohibits outside men from becoming Lembas. Women may join but only after undergoing ritual purification that includes trials by fire, water and being drawn through a hole in a large ant’s nest.

    This exclusion of outside males, Dr Parfitt said, would explain why the cohen genetic signature has been preserved at high frequency among the lemba for so many centuries.

    • The scientitic data despite its proof of a CMH existing in Jewish communities and in the Lemba also presents problems in chronology that are inconsistent with the Lemba oral tradition as to their supposed ancestral origins. First and foremost is the proposition that their tradition states that they were led out of Judea. This is impossible to prove even for the case of Jews living today, much less the Lemba. As for the fact “they practice circumcision, keep one day a week holy and avoid eating pork or pig like animals,” this is not unique to the Lemba or Africans generally. For instance, the Akan of Ghana have the same identical cultural markers. See my first response to this thread at

      The article further states, “Several groups around the world practice Judaic rites or claim to be descended from Biblical tribes without having any ancestral Jewish connection.” This statement may be true on its face but misleading because it implies an a priori assumption that the presumptive Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Maghrebi Jews existing today have something of the original Jewish haplotype or phenotype which is again impossible to prove since all Jews existing today, no matter what part of the world they reside in are descendent of the local populations in which they live. In others words, all Jews living today are descendants of ancient and modern gentile proselytes and that there exists no “pure Jew” (if ever such a thing existed) living today. The ONLY way this prototypical “pure Jew” can be proved is by presenting another impossibility, to collect DNA samples from the Cave of Machpelah where the remains of the Jewish patriarchs are said to reside. This as I said is impossible not because of the cultural and political difficulties such a venture would entail, but because more importantly, such remains DO NOT EXHIST. Therefore, I contend based on these facts that the Tudor thesis BEGS THE QUESTION of Jewish identity instead of answering it. In addition, it gets worst when we consider the chronology, which we will do later.

  5. Here is one other study that I’d like to leave you with that further elucidates the study of haplogroups:

    Haplogroup J and the Jewish Cohen Modal Haplotype
    By Ishaq Al-Sulaimani

    DNA evidence does not support the claim that the Jewish people living in Israel are descendants of the ancient Israelites. On the contrary DNA evidence proves that the vast majority of Jewish people around the world are not Israelite by patrilineal descent meaning of the seed of Abraham,Isaac and Jacob.

    Judaism is a religion comprised of numerous and various peoples of all races and ethnicities. Israelites are the descendants of Abraham,Isaac and Jacob. Israelites are scattered around the world and can be found practicing every religion. DNA testing has proven that Judaism is a religion as the Jewish people have tested positive for at least 8 distinct and unrelated lineages.

    J1 is the only Semitic Haplogroup recognized by geneticists. It appears heavily in Ethiopia,Yemen and Arabia. It is also common amongst Bedouins. STR markers are used to specify lineages within a specific haplogroup. The Kohenim which are found within the Buba clan of the Lemba tribe of South Africa, the descendants of Muhammad (Ishmael) and the Solomonic Amhara of Ethiopia are all defined by specific STR
    Markers within the J1 Haplogroup.

    Only 4% of Jewish people around the world claim to be Kohen. DNA testing eliminated more than half of those claims. Meaning that less than 2% of Jewish people are actually of authentic Kohen descent.

    Approximately 13% of the Jewish people have the J1 haplogroup. This means that almost 90% of the Jewish people are not Semitic or Israelite for that matter. The Israelite Amhara of Ethiopia have 10 times the amount of J1 than all of the Jewish
    people combined. The Buba clan has a higher ratio of Kohenim in comparison to any Jewish community. Only the ancient Kurdish Jews have a ratio of Kohenim comparable to that of the Buba(Lemba).

    Note: J2 is not Semitic but Phoenician, which was a mixture of Semitic and Hamitic.
    Some Israelite STR markers were identified in J2 such as a limited amount of Kohenim.
    However J2 is not Semitic and should not be confused or combined with J1. J2 is non-existent in Ethiopia.

    Matrilineal Judaism which considers paternity irrelevant to Jewish status could not
    possibly inherit that which was promised to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    Below is a DNA Site presented by an educated Jewish woman which clearly demonstrates the fact that the vast majority of Jewish people are not J1.

    Page 4- J1 constitutes 14.6% of Ashkenazi results and 11.9% of Sephardic results

    See: “A Reassessment of the Jewish DNA Evidence
    Ellen Levy-Coffman . The Jewish community has
    been the focus of extensive genetic study over the past …

    • Perhaps you are familiar with The Invention of the Jewish People
      by Shlomo Sand and The Thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler . These supports the main points your post.

      • I am familiar with both works by Mr. Sand and the deceased Mr. Koestler. In fact, it was the Sand work that you responded to on my site as being the reason for this discussion in the first place. We actually might have more in common than differences. Let’s keep talking. And I will definitely re-read your May 17, 2011 blog post “Are ye not as the children of Cush unto Me, O children of Israel?” I appreciate the discussion.

  6. I have more facts to share should you still choose to continue this discussion.

    • That depends on your point of view Mr. Webster. So far you have given more information in “support” of my overall thesis than against it. I will be addressing some more of the mitigating factors to my hypothesis presented in the Nicholas Wade article from the New York Times, Sunday May 9th 1999.

      • Mr. Davis, it appears I am misinterpreting your tone. The tone of your site seems to be one that would contradict the claims of the Lemba, Ibo, Ashanti, etc. I am familiar with the Akan people of Ghana. Interestingly enough, the Akan call the Hebrews, the Afrim. We could certainly delve into that subject in more detail at a later time.

  7. The scientific evidence presented in this paper supports the Africa Israel Hypothesis that the CMH originates in the Lemba.

    World’s most ancient race traced in DNA study…
    “The scientists also found genetic “markers” in the DNA of the present-day inhabitants of East Africa living near to the Red Sea, which indicated that they belonged to the same ancestral group who migrated out of Africa to populate Asia and the rest of the world.”

  8. John Conner permalink

    Just stumbled on this site. Fascinating! Will read eagerly later. But in my cursory check, I did not see anything in reference to Khazaria. It is my understanding that much of modern-day Jews are descendants of Khazar and the mass conversion to Judaism in the late 8th/ 9th century AD. Forgive me if you covered this

    • Arthur Koestler,(The Thirteenth Tribe) and Shlomo Sand, (The Invention of the Jewish People) both make the case regarding the Khazarian ancestors of European Jewry. The AIH is debunking the idea that Africans aspiring to Jewish identity can legitimately claim descent or origin from these or by using them as the yardstick of everything Jewish by emulating them. It smacks of religious imperialism, scriptural neo-colonialism and a vertible cultural hi-jacking of African tradition.

      Sephardic-Ashkenazi minhag and traditions of Judaism have been forged in the crucible of a global north cosmology and culture that finds Black, African and Jews of Color trying to emulate and assimilate into. African Jewish identity measures itself within the broader world Jewish community in much the same way as these other world communities have done, by measuring themselves to the dominant expression of Jewish culture and hegemony that defines the State of Israel. In some cases we African Jews have exchanged our original African ancestors for those of the proselyte descendants of modern Jewry and and so we have adopted their acquired Jewish ancestors as our own. We have exchanged our Kufis and Kesim turbans for yarmulkes and the broad European Hasidic hat. We African Jews reserve the right to measure our Jewish identity within a global south cosmology and culture whose traditions point to an ancient source from whence all religions including Judaism have their forge and origin in black Africa. The rivers of Eden flow into Kush (Ethiopia), Abraham had Kushite ancestors (lines of Ham and Shem which intermarried) and the Israelites became a nation in the Land of Ham (Psa 105:23.) Note the cosmology reflected in St. Augustine, the African Bishop of Hippo where he quotes Habakkuk 3:3 “God shall come from AFRICA, and the Holy One from Pharan.” (St. Augustine reply to Faustus – Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 1:4) It would appear that Jews started within a global south cosmology, an African based spiritual cosmology if you will. Until recently much of this was seen in the black African Jewry of Ethiopia, the Beta Israel community whose ancient traditions, liturgy and priesthood are now being threatened and outlawed into extinction in the State of Israel, a veritable cultural hi-jacking. Only when African Jews explore and understand their Judaism within their own native African spiritual and cultural traditions will they be able to assert their true “Jewish” identity.

      • Rodney Tsapo Rakimane permalink

        firstly I would like to extend my appreciation of such an informative argument and information.

        I am a of lemba ancestory and I find my self on a keen jurney to find information on whole clan and links to the jewish rute and to check if some unusual occurrences are a norm within my lemba connections or is me on a wishful path.

      • Greetings Rodney,
        Many African people groups who find similar cultural links to Biblical practices and culture have fancied themselves as having Biblical origins. Of course this is a phenomenon that was introduced to Africans with Christian missionary activity and the Christian Bible. Since it was averred that black Africans south of the Sahara had no culture or history and because this idea had been internalized by black Africans themselves, we have wanted to be ANYTHING but who we really are because we have been taught we are nothing but “pagans” and “heathens” and “devil worshipers.” So seeking an affinity to Biblical origins on circumstantial grounds has been a motivating force to affirming our dignity as a people. My research seeks to affirm that the Lemba are not Jews, Israelites or Hebrews. Neither are they Arabs. They are Bantu who origins are West African where the Bantu migration began, not Palestine or the Middle East. I recommend that you look at my paper AFRICAN ORIGINS OF JUDAISM in this blog to understand this perspective better. I would like to dialogue with you or any member of your community on this research.

  9. The comment made here that Jews do not show middel eastern encestry is absurdly out of touch with accepted scienctific data. Even the Ashkenazi Jews have 88% pure middle eastern y chromosomes. MtDNA studies are still on going. Paternal middle eastern descent is beyond dispute. Any reputable genetic article from recognised scientists around the world show this.

  10. Azmael permalink

    Hello there my name is Azmael. To be a Israelite is to be the physical descendant of the man Jacob/Israel. This is what make them the rightful citizens of the land of Israel PERIOD. To be a Israelite ( biblical ) and not a Israeli ( Not biblical ) again to be a Israelite it is not a religion it is ones nationality. Duetoromony 28:68 speaks of blessing and cursing toward the ISRAELITES not the Israeli’s. The curses was for the Israelites to be brought back into slavery as bondmen and bondwomen and that they would discontinue or lose their heritage. The heritage that the Israeli or khazars have pick up, and pick up for polictical purposes. The Israeli’s are doing the same thing that the ancient Israelites did which is reject Christ. Those who are non-Israelites, at least accept Christ if not then all your efforts are in vain, and whatever you gain right now is all that you will gain. BEHOLD, YOU CANNOT CONVERT INTO A NATIONALITY, BUT CAN ONLY OBSERVE THE HEBREWIC PRACTICES THAT CAME FROM, AND BELONG TO THE NATION OF THE ISRAELITES. SO BECAUSE ONE CANNOT PHYSICALLY TRANSFORM INTO ANOTHER NATIONALITY. THIS IS THE CONCLUSION OF THE MATTER EVEN IF ONE PERSON FROM THE KHAZARIAN EMPIRE CONVERTED INTO ISRAELITES PRACTICES THEN THIS ELIMINATES THE ENTIRE ISRAELI NATION FROM BEING THE TRUE ISRAELITES. AND PLEASE DONT WEARY ME BY SAYING THAT I AM BEING ANTI-SEMITE. THIS IS THE TRUTH SO YOU DRINK IT, EVEN SWALLOW DOWN.

    • Greetings Azmael,
      No I would not call you an anti-Semite. However I might say you are uniformed. You are long on ideology and short if not totally absent with facts. And nothing you write responds to or addresses the FACTS of articles on my blog. Even if anything you say were right, it is not enough to be “right”. You have to be right FOR THE RIGHT REASON.

      • Azmael permalink

        I apologize Sidney for just cutting to the chase. I would re-check your blog in order to stay on cue. The reason I would hope to be right is because those who’s hands the world is in is just not working. We are breeding only slaves for Satan’s World kingdom. I SAY WE NEED TO FIND THE REAL JEWS BECAUSE THEY WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH THE POWER OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL.

      • I have no problem with your faith. You are as free to believe or not in human tribal exclusivity if that is your faith. I am not talking about faith here.

    • Absolutely – Sidney is right. If you choose to imagine that you are an Israelite , who is to stop you – but don’t mix it up with science and History.

  11. Thank you for another informative website.
    The place else may I get that type of information written
    in such a perfect manner? I’ve a project that I’m just now running on,
    and I have been at the look out for such info.

  12. The most recent research shows that the Lemba are unlikely to descend from Jews. The study done by UCL in 2000 only included 6 markers, so the haplogroups looked as if they were shared by Jews. High resolution tests show that the Lemba do not share haplotypes with Jews , but with some Arabs. This is in keeping with the fact that their tribal names are found in Yemen . The Cohen modal haplotype that they were thought to share with Jewish priests , is now also different. The extended modal haplotype common to Jewish priests across the Diaspora was not found in the Lemba. The latest study by Soodyall ” does not support a Jewish origin for the Lemba.

  13. In addition to the comments above, exhaustive research on Ashkenazi Jews shows that there is no support for the Khazar myth. Their paternal haplogroups are overwhelmingly Middle Eastern. Some of their maternal haplogroups derive from Italy, probably as a result of the fact that many Roman women converted to Judaism in classical times

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