Are the Taliban descendants of Israel?

Pashtun practices include circumcision on the eighth day and refraining from mixing meat and milk — Is there a connection to ancient Hebrews?


 TALIBAN FORCES patrol in front of  Hamid Karzai International Airport  in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2 (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)
TALIBAN FORCES patrol in front of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2 (photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

Source: The Jerusalem Post

With the fall of Kabul into the hands of the Taliban just shy of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the world’s attention has once again turned to Afghanistan. Tucked away in south-central Asia, with unsavory neighbors such as Iran to the west and Pakistan to the east, the landlocked country, which once served as a base of operations for al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, is as beguiling as it is complex. And yet amid its turbulent past, in which it has served as a flashpoint for the British Empire, the Soviet Union and now the United States, Afghanistan has long been home to one of the more intriguing unsolved mysteries of Jewish history: the fate of some of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Periodically over the past two decades, newspaper headlines have raised the tantalizing question of whether the Pashtun tribes who make up most of the Taliban are in fact our long-lost relatives, descendants of the Israelites who were cast into exile by the Assyrian empire more than 2,700 years ago. While the possibility of such a connection may strike some as fanciful, a cursory look at the evidence suggests that it cannot and should not be dismissed out of hand.

 A  TALIBAN member stands guard as Afghan men take pictures of a vehicle from which rockets were fired, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30. (credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)A TALIBAN member stands guard as Afghan men take pictures of a vehicle from which rockets were fired, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30. (credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

The Pashtuns, or Pathans, are said to number in the tens of millions, with the bulk living in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. They consist of several hundred clans and tribes that have fiercely preserved their heritage amid waves of foreign conquest and occupation. Prior to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the region, many of the Pashtuns declared themselves to be what they referred to as Bani Israel (Sons of Israel), an oral tradition that their ancestors passed down through the generations.

This was noted by various Islamic travelers and historians, stretching as far back as the 13th century, when there was hardly any advantage to be gained by asserting an ancient Israelite identity in Central Asia. Over the next 400 years, other Islamic scholars and writers noted the persistence of the tradition. In the 19th century, a number of Westerners who visited the region became convinced that the Pashtuns were in fact descendants of the Israelites. In his 1858 work, History of the Afghans, Joseph-Pierre Ferrier wrote that the chief of one of the main Pashtun tribes, the Yusefzai (Sons of Joseph), presented the Persian shah Nader Shah Afshar “with a Bible written in Hebrew and several other articles that had been used in their ancient worship and which they had preserved.

”Similarly, Major Henry W. Bellew, who served in the British colonial Indian army, in his 1861 work The Lost Tribes, wrote regarding the Pashtuns that, “The nomenclature of their tribes and districts, both in ancient geography, and at the present day, confirms this universal natural tradition. Lastly, we have the route of the Israelites from Media to Afghanistan and India marked by a series of intermediate stations bearing the names of several of the tribes and clearly indicating the stages of their long and arduous journey.”

More recently, the late president of Israel, Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, in his 1957 study about far-flung Jewish communities The Exiled and the Redeemed, devoted an entire chapter to “Afghan tribes and the traditions of their origin.”Basing himself on scholarly research, as well as on interviews he conducted with numerous Afghani Jews who made aliyah in the 1950s, Ben-Zvi wrote, “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.”

While he cautiously notes that, “the evidence in our possession is, of course, insufficient for practical conclusions to be drawn therefrom,” he nonetheless correctly asserts, “The fact that this tradition, and no other, has persisted among these tribes is itself a weighty consideration.”MODERN-DAY scholars have added greatly to our stock of knowledge on this subject.

Dr. Navraz Aafreedi, an Indian academic in Kolkata who hails from a Pashtun background, has written extensively and persuasively about the evidence of an Israelite connection, and Dr. Eyal Be’eri, the leading Israeli scholar on the Pashtuns, has recorded a series of their customs and traditions that are identical to those of Jews.These include practices such as circumcision on the eighth day after birth, refraining from mixing meat and milk, lighting candles on the eve of the Sabbath and even levirate marriage.

Other scholars have noted similarities between the Pashtun’s ancient tribal code, the Pashtunwali, and Jewish traditions.While DNA studies have provided limited evidence to back up these assertions, a 2017 article in the journal Mitochondrial DNA did find there to be “a genetic connection of Jewish conglomeration in Khattak tribe,” one of the Pashtun clans. And although the Taliban have done a great deal to erase any trace of their pre-Islamic history, the tradition refuses to die.

As Hebrew University anthropologist Dr. Shalva Weil has noted regarding the Pashtuns’ link with the lost tribes of Israel, “There is more convincing evidence” about them than anybody else. This fascinating historical curiosity, however, should not blind us to the fact that the Taliban are viciously anti-Israel and no Pashtuns are known to have shown any public interest in returning to their Jewish roots. Indeed, as Dr. Be’eri has argued, even if the Pashtuns are biologically and historically connected with the people of Israel, it still does not mean that “tomorrow they will convert to Judaism and come to live in the Land of Israel.

”Merely talking about “mass conversion and migration of millions of Pashtuns from Afghanistan and India into the State of Israel,” he has written, could damage prospects for building greater regional cooperation and understanding.

There are, of course, other theories regarding the origins of the Pashtuns as well as scholars who discount or reject the contention of an ancient Israelite connection. But given the Pashtuns’ ancient civilization and far-flung diaspora, and their key political and demographic role in various parts of the Asian subcontinent, it would seem prudent for the Jewish people to seek out avenues of dialogue with them if and wherever feasible.

The mere possibility of a shared historical identity could serve as a basis for discussion between Jews and Pashtuns, one that could lead to a dampening of hostility and suspicion and perhaps lay the groundwork for a stronger relationship in the future. In light of their fanatical theology, the Taliban are of course not an address for such efforts. But there are plenty of other Pashtuns worldwide with whom we should seek to build bridges, whether or not one believes them to be our long-lost cousins. The writer is founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (, which reaches out and assists the Lost Tribes of Israel and other hidden Jewish communities.

Tags talibanafghanistanancient history


3 replies

  1. The above article is in line with this:

    Jesus in Kashmir
    A London Mosque Publication

    The fundamental doctrines of Christian Church are based upon the death of Jesus on the Cross, his resurrection and his bodily ascension to heaven. Though Christian masses continue to render lip service to these fictions, few thinkers even in Christian lands today believe in or dare assert the historic authenticity of these supposed events. There are not even prima facie considerations to sustain the theory of death upon the cross and there is no sure evidence to support the unnatural phenomena of the resurrection and the ascension.

    Indeed the Gospels themselves furnish the most formidable refutations of these myths. The basic doctrine of the Church has been that Jesus being the son of God appeared in the human shape to take upon himself the accumulated burden of humanity’s sins and to expiate them on the Cross so that mankind might attain salvation through belief in the atonement. Being the son of God Himself and through his death upon the cross he became “accursed” for mankind’s sake and remained in that state for three days to atone for the sins of mankind. He, then, came back to life and ascended bodily to heaven. He will descend to the earth again in the latter days and judge mankind.

    There is nothing in the authentic sayings and teachings of Jesus to support or justify any of this. According to him he was a prophet raised among Israel particularly for the guidance of the “lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Matthew 15: 24). Were it true that he was the very God himself and that the sole purpose of his sojourn upon earth was to expiate mankind’s sins upon the cross, he would not have prayed in agony and asked his disciples to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane that if possible, the cup (of death upon the Cross) may be turned away (Matthew 26 : 39). Jesus believed that God heard his prayers. He must have believed that this prayer would also be heard. If the whole purpose of his advent was to atone for the sins of mankind through his death upon the cross why this agonized prayer to be spared such a death? This prayer is a complete refutation of the whole alleged purpose of his advent.

    He must have received Divine assurance of deliverance in answer to his prayers (Hebrews 5:7). For, when, as a mortal being he perceived upon the cross that all apparent chance of his being delivered from his humiliating and agonizing demise upon the cross had disappeared, he was afflicted with the apprehension lest some default on his part should have defeated the Divine purpose of deliverance of which he had received assurance after his earnest prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. This brought on fresh agony and he cried out “My God, my God! Why hast Thou forsaken me” ? ( Matthew 27: 46). If the death of Jesus upon the cross was the fulfillment of the very purpose for which he had been sent among mankind, the realization that death was now creeping upon him and that he was fast slipping into unconsciousness, should have filled him with a sense of exultation that he had now almost fulfilled the purpose of his advent, and that within a few hours that purpose would be completely achieved. Had that been so, his cry, instead of being one of agony and almost of despair, would have been a shout of exultation. He would have proclaimed, “Oh glory! Oh glory! the purpose is fulfilled. Mankind is redeemed through me,” instead of crying in anguish “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me.’

    Had he died upon the cross and come back to life again, he would have proceeded to the highest vantage point in Jerusalem and proclaimed his triumph over death to the unbelieving Jews, and putting forward this irrefutable proof of his being the son of God, would have invited them to believe in him as such. He did not do this. Instead, he met the disciples a few times to convince them of the fact that he had not died upon the cross, had not become “accursed” and was still alive in his physical body (Matthew 28: 9, 10). He charged the disciples not to spread this news about him and he took precautions to meet them only in secret (Matthew 23: 19). There is not a single instance on record of any contemporary Jew or gentile having believed in him because he had died and had come to life, and yet had that been the case what greater miracle could anybody have desired to see? All this completely refutes the assertion that death upon the cross was the very purpose of his advent and that purpose had been fulfilled.

    Jesus himself never taught this. He insisted that the way to salvation was through keeping “the law and the prophets.” Which Law? Obviously, the Mosaic Law. Which prophets ? Clearly the Prophets who had succeeded Moses in Israel. He reiterated that he had not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. “Till heaven and earth pass, not one jot or title shall in no wise pass from the law.” (Matthew 5: 17, 18). He exhorted his disciples and followers to do what the Scribes and Pharisees told them to do, for they sat in Moses’ seat and were thus the authorized and traditional interpreters of the Law of Moses though he warned against imitation of their deeds for “they say and do not.” (Matthew 23: 2, 3).

    The whole body of doctrine, based upon the Law being accursed and salvation being possible only through atonement, is a later innovation and finds no support whatever in anything that Jesus said or did. It is asserted that he described himself as the son of God, but this was clearly a metaphorical use of the expression common in sacred scriptures. When charged with this he turned upon his accusers saying that if those to whom the Word of God came were called God or even the first born of God, why should he be charged with blasphemy for using the very words. If they had the right to explain them metaphorically, why should this right be denied him.( John 10: 34, 35). The Bible describes Israel (Jacob) as God’s son, even the “first born”.'(Exodus 4:22). The peace-makers are described as the “Children of God” (Matthew 5: 9). In the Lord’s prayer God is addressed by the faithful as Father, the faithful being thus the sons of God. The Bible has frequently used this expression metaphorically to describe the chosen of God, the righteous people and even the whole of mankind.

    Jesus had announced that his “wicked and adulterous” generation would be given no sign except the sign of the prophet Jonas.( Matthew 16: 4.). It is worth remembering that Jonas entered the belly of the whale alive, remained there alive, though unconscious, and emerged there from alive. So was Jesus taken down from the cross alive though unconscious, he remained in the sepulchre alive and emerged therefrom alive. Had he died upon the cross, there would have been no resemblance between his case and that of the Prophet Jonas, unless one were also to believe that Jonas too had died in the belly of the whale and had come back to life after he emerged there from, a theory which would scarcely be acceptable to the Church.( Jonah Chapter 2).

    It is significant that the text of the Revised Standard Version (1946) of the New Testament, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons, New York, no longer makes mention of the bodily ascension of Jesus to heaven.

    THE Muslims believe, as taught by the Holy Quran, that Jesus was a righteous Prophet raised by God among Israel. He himself emphasized that, and if the Jews rejected him the kingdom of heaven would pass to another people. Therefore, prophethood came to an end among Israel and the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, was raised from among the descendants of Ishmael, that is to say, from among the brethren of Israel.”(Deutronomy 18: 18). He was the last Law-bearing Prophet and the Law proclaimed him in the Word of God, the Holy Quran, is “all truth” through which mankind has been guided, as proclaimed by Jesus. (John, 16: l3).

    The earnest prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, his agonized cry from the cross, the precautions taken by him when meeting his disciples after his recovery from the swoon into which he had been plunged upon the cross – are all consistent with the truth as taught by the Holy Quran. The prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was inspired by the natural desire of Jesus to escape the humiliation and agony of death upon the cross. This desire was all the more keen as he realized that in case the Jews succeeded in compassing his death upon the cross, they would ever after claim, as they in fact do up to this day, that Jesus having died upon the cross became ‘accursed’ and could not, therefore, have been a righteous Prophet (Deuteronomy, 21: 23). Far from being anxious to become “accursed” for the sake of mankind, Jesus was most anxious to escape such a stigma, for the sake of his people, so that this should not become for them a permanent barrier against their acceptance of him as a righteous Prophet. The notion of becoming “accursed” even for a short period for the sake of mankind was so alien to his mind that he assured one of the two thieves who were put upon the cross at the same time with him that the latter would be with him in Paradise that very day. By that time Jesus, finding that there was no apparent way of escape left, was beginning to be somewhat reconciled to the prospect of death, if that was the inscrutable Will of God, though he still shrank from the dreadful consequence for the Jews, if he once became “accursed” in their eyes. He thus assured the thief that if both of them did cross the valley of the shadow of death that day, they would be together in paradise!” (Luke 23:43.)

    Even at the very moment when the body of Jesus was about to be taken down from the cross to be handed over to Joseph of Arimathea and was pricked in the side (possibly in the region of the pleura) by a Roman soldier with his spear, blood and water came out, a sure testimony that life was not extinct. (John 19: 2332).

    It may, therefore, be accepted as beyond controversy that Jesus did not die upon the cross. He was in a swoon when his body was taken down from the cross. He was lovingly tended and cared for and healing ointments and herbs were applied to his wounds from which he recovered sufficiently by the third day to be able to leave the sepuchre. Thereafter, he met his disciples on different occasions (there is a good deal of confusion with regard to this in the Gospel account) always taking precaution lest his presence among them and, therefore, his escape from death, should become known to his enemies. Having fully established testimony to his not having died upon the cross he resolved, under Divine Command, to leave Palestine and to journey through the lands where the lost tribes of Israel then dwelt so that he could carry the Divine message to them.

    THUS Jesus completed his mission, died a natural death and was buried in Srinagar, Kashmir. Guided by Divine revelation and subsequent research, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, located his tomb in the Khanyar Street of the city of Srinagar where it can still be visited. This discovery has dispelled any doubts as to the fact that Jesus did not die on the cross and has removed all uncertainty which had enshrouded the Life of Jesus for many centuries. May God rest his soul in peace and have mercy on him!

    For further information & literature on the subject, please write to:

    The London Mosque,
    16 Gressenhall Road.
    London, S.W.18.

    More on this topic and download the books: Jesus – a humble prophet of God

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