The fact is that some Pashtun tribes have a tradition of being the people of Israel (Bene Israel), meaning they descended from our father Yaakov. It is even told that the Afghan king once asked the Afghan Jews from which tribe they are, when they answered they don’t know the king said that the Pashtuns do, and that the king is from the tribe of Benyamin. In particular, I heard myself from Pashtuns from the tribes of Lewani, Benyamin, Afridi, Shinwari and more, that their grandfathers told them they are Bene Israel, and it is well known that this tradition is spread through most (or all) of the Pashtuns tribes.
Some Pashtuns, especially from young generations, are doubting that this is true. In this article I’ll explore the possibilities of how this tradition could have originated. From this exploration it will become clear that doubting the truthfulness of this tradition is irrational. I would also outline some common traditions of Pashtuns and Jews, some of them are based on the Tora, which further confirm that this tradition is true and that Pashtuns are really Bene Israel. I’ll then say a few words about DNA testing and finally talk about the implications of this tradition.
The possibilities for the origin of the tradition
There are 2 possibilities for how this tradition could have originated. The simple one is that it is true. The more complex one is that it is false. If it is false, it had to originate somehow. There are 3 possible ways this tradition could have originated if it is false:
- At some point in time someone forced the Pashtuns into believing they are Bene Israel.
- At some point in time someone convinced the Pashtuns into believing they are Bene Israel.
- At some point in time some Pashtuns created this tradition in a major conspiracy.
Anyone who has doubts in this tradition must explain how it originated. We will now go through those possible explanations (assuming the tradition is false) and show that each of them is far-fetched and as close to impossible as it gets.
Someone forced the Pashtuns into believing in this tradition
According to this explanation for the origin of this tradition, at some generation A, someone (or a group of people) came along and threatened the Pashtuns that if they won’t teach their children they are Bene Israel, something terrible is going to happen to them. Time had passed, and at generation B the tradition was already so acceptable, that not only many (probably most) of the Pashtuns believed it, but they completely forgot that once, at generation A, someone forced their ancestors into believing it (it is a fact that now no one remember of such a person who forced the Pashtuns into believing in this tradition).
For this explanation to be rationally accepted, we have to believe that:
- Someone had a motive for forcing the Pashtuns into believing they are Bene Israel.
- That person had the means to force generation A into believing it.
- In some of the generations that followed generation A, there had to be someone who shared this motive and those means, or else, after 1-2 generations this tradition would have been recognized as false and it would have disappeared.
I think that it is safe to say that we have no rational reason for believing that any of those conditions is true, because:
(1) It doesn’t seem reasonable to believe that anyone had ever had a motive for forcing the Pashtuns into believing they are Bene Israel.
(2) In addition, we clearly see today that Pashtuns would not let go of their traditions without a fight, and we have no reason to think it was different in any previous generation. Therefore, even if anyone had the motive, he would probably have to kill many Pashtuns before he could force this tradition upon them. If that happened, it would have been remembered, both by the Pashtuns themselves and by their neighbours, and there would have been some archaeological and historical records of this genocide. As far as I know, there isn’t any such evidence.
(3) Finally, if believing it was possible at one generation is far-fetched, believing some people did that for many generations is close to insanity.
(4) Even if we ignore the problems outlined above, it would still be highly unlikely that this event of forcing this tradition upon the Pashtuns would have been forgotten.
Therefore, the belief that Pashtuns are not really Bene Israel cannot be rationally based on this explanation.
Someone convinced the Pashtuns into believing in this tradition
According to this explanation for the origin of this tradition, at some generation A, someone (or a group of people) came along and convinced the Pashtuns that they are really Bene Israel, although they never heard of it before. Time had passed, and at generation B the tradition was already so acceptable, that not only many (probably most) of the Pashtuns believed it, but they completely forgot that once, at generation A, someone invented it and convinced their ancestors it is true.
For this explanation to be rationally accepted, we have to believe that:
- Someone had a motive for convincing the Pashtuns into believing they are Bene Israel.
- That person had such strong arguments that he managed to convince people they are something they are not.
- In some of the generations that followed generation A, people who questioned this tradition were convinced again and again that it is true using those arguments.
- The Pashtuns at generation A had to have no tradition of their true origin, or they let go of their previously held tradition because the arguments they are Bene Israel were so strong.
I think that it is safe to say that we have no rational reason for believing that any of those conditions is true, because:
(1) Like we said before, it doesn’t seem reasonable to believe that anyone had ever had a motive for convincing the Pashtuns into believing they are Bene Israel.
(2) What could have been those arguments? If we ignore the tradition the Pashtuns are Bene Israel, even with the other common traditions of Pashtuns and Jews, there aren’t strong enough arguments to convince anyone, especially not the Pashtuns themselves, that the Pashtuns are something they are not (remember that at generation A the Pashtuns didn’t have any tradition of being Bene Israel according to this explanation).
(3) Even though some people are stupid, there are always, in every nation, those who are smart and ask questions. If enough people, at generation A or at the following generations, were smart, there’s no way this tradition would have been accepted, and I don’t think it is rational to believe that some generations of Pashtuns were so stupid. In fact, a lot of Pashtuns are very intelligent people, and from that we can safely conclude that their ancestors were intelligent too.
(4) There’s no historical record for this event of convincing the Pashtuns they are something they are not.
(5) It is unlikely that the Pashtuns in generation A let go of a previously held tradition, no matter what arguments were given to them. We’d have to believe they had no idea who they are.
(6) Even if we ignore the problems outlined above, it would still be highly unlikely that this event of convincing this tradition upon the Pashtuns would have been forgotten.
Therefore, the belief that Pashtuns are not really Bene Israel cannot be rationally based on this explanation.
Some Pashtuns created this tradition
According to this explanation for the origin of this tradition, at some generation A, some Pashtuns decided they are Bene Israel. Then they convinced or forced the other Pashtuns, although no one has ever heard of it before. Time had passed, and at generation B the tradition was already so acceptable, that not only many (probably most) of the Pashtuns believed it, but they completely forgot that once, at generation A, some Pashtuns invented it and convinced or forced others it is true.
The same arguments that were given above are all relevant to this explanation, only now the problems are much more profound, because we have to believe that the ones who forced or convinced other Pashtuns were Pashtuns themselves (and if it was done by convincing, they had to be superb liars).
Therefore, the belief that Pashtuns are not really Bene Israel cannot be rationally based on this explanation.
We previously outlined taxonomy of all the possible explanations for the origin of the tradition that Pashtuns are Bene Israel, assuming it is false. Because all of the explanations are irrational, we must conclude that the tradition is true, and at some generation A the Pashtuns really lived in the land of Israel and knew for a fact they are Bene Israel. They were then taken to Afghanistan and the area around it (according to the bible, they were taken by the Assyrians), where they lived and passed this tradition from generation to generation.
Common traditions of Pashtuns and Jews
You will see soon that there are many similarities between Pashtuns and Jews, including parts of the Tora the Pashtuns still keep today. In my opinion it is enough, even on its own, to prove that Pashtuns are in fact Bene/Bani Israel, but even if you think it isn’t enough, the similarities can certainly be used for further confirmation that our conclusion is correct. One note – when I wrote “some Pashtuns” do this or that, instead of just “Pashtuns”, it is either because I know that some Pashtuns don’t keep the particular tradition, or because I’m not sure everyone does, but don’t know for sure that some don’t. Please also note that I only wrote here customs that I personally heard from Pashtuns that Pashtuns keep and didn’t relay on anything I found on the web, so if you, dear reader, are a Pashtun, and you never heard of one of these customs, it means that Pashtuns that live elsewhere are keeping it but not in your area. Amongst the common traditions are:
Some Pashtuns pour and cover the blood with sand after slaughtering chickens and other animals (not just for cleaning). As far as I know, the Pashtuns don’t know why they do that, but Jews do (Leviticus 17:13): “And every man from the people of Israel and the converts who live amongst you that will hunt certain types of animals or birds that are aloud to be eaten, will pour their blood and cover it with earth (Jews do it with sand too)”. (my translation).
Lighting candles on Fridays before dark.
Some Pashtuns have a strict rule as to not do laundry on Shabbath (Saturday), which is a law from the oral Tora (written in the Mishna and Talmud).
Not eating sea-creatures such as lobsters, shrimps, and crabs, and animals like camels and horses (which is written explicitly in the Tora), and meat with cheese (which is a law of the oral Tora). (See Leviticus 11:4, 11:10, and see Exodus 23:19 which, according to the oral Tora, forbids eating meat with milk products).
Some Pashtuns don’t drink or eat Camel milk, just like Jews.
Some Pashtuns put salt on fresh meat to get the blood out. Jews do the same thing (Leviticus 17:10). (Actually, from the Tora it is forbidden to eat blood, but we aren’t sure whether the Tora only forbids fresh blood or cooked blood too, and if the first is correct, then cooked blood is forbidden only by a Sanhedrin (high court) made commandment. By extracting the blood from meat before cooking, we can learn from the Pashtuns that if it is only a Sanhedrin made commandment, the Sanhedrin that forbade it was probably from the era of the prophets, before the exile of the Pashtuns from the holy land.)
Both Pashtuns and Jews are checking eggs for blood, not just out of hygiene, and if they find it, they throw the whole egg, in accordance with Leviticus 17:10.
After the slaughtering of an animal, Pashtuns rub the blood on their doors. This was done by the people of Israel on Pesah, right before the exodus form Egypt (Exodus 12). It is not done by Jews today (as far as I know), so I thought this is an Israelite custom that was kept by Pashtuns and lost to Jews, until I told my mother (Iraqi Jew that ran away from Iraq in 1948 as a baby) about it, and she said they used to always do it in their village here in Israel and only stopped when they moved to the city (where we don’t own our own animals anyway). So until very recently, Jews used to do the exact same thing.
Some Pashtuns take a black sheep or chicken, place their sins upon them and then send them into the desert. The Jews don’t do this today, but the people of Israel used to do it on Yom Kipur in the temple with a goat (Leviticus 16:21-22): “And Aaron shall lean both of his hands upon the live goat’s head and confess upon it all the willful transgressions of the children of Israel, all their rebellions, and all their unintentional sins, and he shall place them on the goat’s head, and send it off to the desert with a timely man. The goat shall thus carry upon itself all their sins to a precipitous land, and he shall send off the goat into the desert.”
Lighting candles in cemeteries. Jews do this too for the benefit of the soul of the dead.
Pashto Lullabies have words similar to the names of God in Hebrew – Eloah, and to the word Haleluyah.
Pashtuns shake their bodies while praying. Jews do the same thing.
Circumcision. Some Pashtuns are even doing it specifically on the 8th day (Genesis 17:9-14, and other places).
As a part of the Pashtunwali (the unwritten code of the Pashtuns way of life), Pashtuns respect an older brother like a father. This is also a law from the oral Tora.
In Pashto, the days of the week are called by their numbers, like in Hebrew, except for Friday which is called by it’s Arabic name Jummah جمعه as it is a holy day for Muslims, and except for Saturday which is called Shambah. In the Tora it is called Shabath.
When a guest of Pashtuns leaves, they accompany him at least a bit for his safety in his trip. According to Judaism, Jews are obligated to do the same thing (Talmud Sota 46). (I must note that this might be a custom of other nations too.)
When a Pashtun sees a funeral he joins it or at least accompany the body for a few steps. According to Judaism, Jews are obligated to do the same thing (Talmud Berahot 18). (I must note that this custom is common amongst Muslims in general and not just Pashtuns.)
Wearing a small hat, In Hebrew they are called Kipa:
A Jew, according to the Tora, must start keeping all the commandments when he reaches the age of 13 for males and 12 for females. Pashtuns, too, consider those ages as the ages when a male/female becomes an adult, and start keeping Islamic commandments like fasting on the Ramadan.
Pashtun men wear a square piece of clothing. In Pashton it is called Shawl/Sadaar and in Hebrew it is called Talith:
(I should note that the image has an error, and Tzitzit is the name of the straps at the corner of the Talith, and not those in the middle. Still, the resemblance is obvious.)
A man marries his dead brother’s widow. In the Tora it is called Yibum (Deuteronomy 25:5).
In Weddings there’s a piece of fabric hanging above the marrying couple. In Hebrew it is called Hupa (mentioned in many places in the Mishna and Talmud). In Pashto it is called Dolaye.
In some Pashtuns weddings, the bride breaks a glass and sometimes the groom does it (in particular, I heard it is done by Pashtuns in Kandagar). In Jews’ weddings the groom breaks it. This is actually a relatively new tradition that Jews do for the remembrance of the destroyed Temple, so it is likely that Pashtuns heard of this tradition after they have already been exiled and added it to their other Israeli traditions.
In weddings, Pashtuns take the groom over the shoulders and dance with him. Jews do the same thing.
The people of Israel used to sacrifice animals when someone committed a sin or when someone had something to be thankful for (Jews don’t do it today because it is forbidden outside the temple). Pashtuns do a similar thing even today with a sheep or a goat which are both Kosher for sacrifice according to the Tora.
Some Pashtuns (mainly women but also some men) grow curly side brows (called Kamsai in Pashto). A lot of Jewish males do that too (mainly Hasidim (Ashkenazi) and Yemen Jews). This is a Yemanite Jewish child:
After cutting nails, both Pashtuns and Jews burn or bury them or put them some place where no one would step on them, as written in the Talmud (Moed Katan 18). (This custom might be common amongst Muslims in general and not just Pashtuns.)
Pashtuns pay attention to bury a body on the same day the person past away, which is a commandment of the oral Tora (Talmud, Sanhedrin 46).
Pashtuns also make sure that until the burial, the body is not left alone. Jews do that too.
Both Pashtuns and Jews put stones on graves, but this custom might be common to other nations too.
Some Pashtuns and Jews pray to God to have mercy on them by remembering the righteous who are now dead (like Moses did Exodus 32:13), and sometimes ask the dead to pray to God on their behalf.
A lot of Jews have a custom to pray near graves of the righteous (needless to say we only pray to God and not to the dead). It is usually done when someone is having health problems or when a women is having trouble getting pregnant, and one’s prayers are not answered. In particular, I can say that my grandmother couldn’t conceive for 4 years until she went to the grave of Ezra (Uzair, in today’s Iraq)… 9 months later my aunt was born. That is why many Iraqi Jews were named Ezra or Yehezkel (as their graves are in Iraq), and thousands of Jews can tell you the same story about themselves. Pashtuns do the same thing, even though it is prohibited in Islam.
Both Pashtuns and Jews light candles, pray and give charity to the poor for the benefit of the soul of the dead, especially during the first year, read verses of their holy books near their graves (Jews from Psalms/Zabur and Pashtuns from Quran), and pray to God to give them children so they’ll pray for them in due time (And if anyone would tell you it has anything to do with Hinduism or something, it’s false, as some Jews who were never anywhere near to any Hindu are doing it).
Pashtuns pay attention not to get a hair cut during the night. Following the Kabala (the books of Rabbie Yisshak Luriya), Jews do that too.
There is a commandment in the Tora called Neder, which means that if someone says, for example he will give money to charity, then he must do it even if when he said it he was alone and only God heard it. Pashtuns also do that too.
Attan, the national dance of Pashtuns, has some similarities (especially with the movement of the legs) to Hora and Hasidic dancing of Jews.
Some Pashtuns only extinguish candles with 2 fingers instead of blowing them out, just like many Jews do (Ben Ish Hai – Pinhas 18 in the name of Ari, our Master of Kabala, Shaar Ruah Ha Kothesh, and Kaf Hahayim – Yore Dea 116:115).
Some Pashtuns never pee towards west, which is the direction of Israel/Jerusalem from Afghanistan, just like Jews, in accordance with the Talmud. If one looks at a map, he can also notice that Macca is south-west from Afghanistan. We can’t be sure about this one, because the west direction might have been chosen as an important direction because of Macca, not paying enough attention that it is south-west, but there might be something here, because the direction of Macca is south-west, and it is specifically the west direction that is important, and not south. In addition, I was told by Pashtuns that they don’t pee towards Jerusalem, and not that they don’t pee towards west or to Macca.
Some Pashtuns are praying towards west. This is too a law from the oral Tora (written in the Talmud) and the same analysis for the custom of not peeing towards west applies here too.
Using names like Yaakov (Christians use Jacob but only Jews and Pashtuns use it as it should be pronounced), Israel, Barak, Asaf, Asif, Hanan (means ‘gave freely’ in Hebrew, and besides Hanan, Khanan, which has a similar sound, is also a Pashtun name, which means someone wealthy who gives freely/generously), Benyamin, Kenan, Tamir, Timor, Shir, Sahar, Ermia, Aharon, Zalman, Ehezkel, and there are more.
Another evidence is names of places in Afghanistan and Kashmir that resemble ancient towns in Israel that are mentioned in the bible, like Sodom (Sedom). And there is the province of Zavulistan which might have been the land of the Israeli tribe of Zevulun.
One of the places the tribes of Israel were taken to was Halah (Kings 2 17:6), and there are at least 3 places in Ghor that are called Halah: Halah Bayd, Nuh Halah, and Halah Ku. I checked and the name Halah is pronounce the same by Pashtuns as it is pronounced in Hebrew.
Another place the tribes of Israel were taken to was Havor, which might be Pesa Habor, an ancient name of Peshawar (V and B are the same letter in Hebrew – ב).
Some say that until not so long ago, one of the names of the Amu Darya river was Gozan, which is mentioned as one of the places the tribes were taken to, but I checked and Pashtuns don’t know this river as Gozan. I don’t know what is the basis of that claim in wikipedia, but I would definitely guess that the Gozan river is today’s Ghazni river (both G and GH are the same letter in Hebrew – ג).
The fourth and last place that is written as the place of the Israeli tribes is the cities of Medes. In the Talmud (Yevamoth 17) it is said that those cities are either Hamadan or Nihar and their surrounding cities. Hamadan might be Hamadan (of Ghaws) or Rabat-e Hemdin, and may be Niher is Nahri-e Saraj.
The names of some of the Pashtun tribes resemble the names of the children of Yaakov (the names of the Israeli tribes), like Lewani (Lewi), Daftali (Naftali), Yusufzai (children of Yussuf-Yossef), Rubanni (Reuven), Gadon (Gad).
Some Pashtuns have Jewish artefacts. For example, I heard first hand from a Zazai Pashtun that his grandmother had these jewelry:
I also heard from the same Zazai Pashtun that his family had a big Magen David (star of David) but the Taliban broke it.
In Mughal Empire texts there is an area named “Dasht-e Yahudi” (the desert of the Jews), which was used to refer to the land of the Pashtuns. It denotes their disgust and sarcasm of the Afghans, and specifically the Afridi, Khattak and Yusufzai tribes. It was used because the Afghans of that time and their neighbours, all knew that the Pashtuns are in fact the people of Israel.
In this book that quotes a Pashtun historian who claims that the Pashtuns are Bene Israel and goes over many bible stories, on page 36, it is said that Og (Aj) the giant might have survived the great flood of Noah because he was so tall that the water only reached his chest. This is not written anywhere in the Quran/Hadith nor is it written anywhere in the bible. However, in the Talmud (Zevahim 113) it is said that according to Jewish oral tradition, Og held on to the ark of Noah, and because he was so tall he didn’t drown. As far as I know, the Talmud, which is written in mixed Aramaic and Hebrew, was not translated to any other language until recently.
So if the writer of the book heard this story from anyone, it had to be from Jews who told him the story as a Jewish oral tradition. It is possible that this is how the writer knew about it, and it explains why he wrote it tentatively, but because the book was meant to be authentic while Jewish oral traditions are not considered authentic by Muslims, and because in the history book it isn’t mentioned that Og held on to the ark, making it a bit different from the Jewish tradition, and because from the Quran it is said that from the people of Noah, only his family survived, it might be the case that the writer knew that Og survived the flood by an oral tradition of the Pashtuns themselves.
Pashtuns know of other stories about the Israeli prophets that do not appear in any Islam writings, and they are sometimes dismissed by scholars as Israelite stories. I also heard that some Pashtuns tell a lot of stories about Moses’ life, while most of the other Muslims focus on Muhammad’s life. We are now trying to find such stories and see if they match oral traditions of Jews. It might be very promising, because it is probably the first time ever that Pashtuns and Jews work together on such projects.
It is important to note that there are other Pashtun customs that don’t match Jewish customs. One explanation is that the Pashtuns picked them up from neighbouring nations. A better explanation in my opinion, at least for the customs that do not contradict the Tora (which are the majority of the non-matching customs), is that there are some customs that the Pashtuns kept better than the Jews and they are Israelite customs too.
Like I said above, I think that this list, even on its own, is enough to prove that the Pashtuns are Bene/Bani Israel. In any case, if we add those traditions to the analysis of the origin of the tradition it self of being Bene/Bani Israel, we can be confident that our conclusion is correct.
Here it is said that almost half of Indian Afridi Pathans are very close genetically to Jews. I heard from some Pashtuns that Pathans are actually Pashtuns that mixed with other nations, so I was set to try to do a DNA test myself on friends of mine who are pure-blood Pashtuns. I already got an offer from a commercial company, when I suddenly remembered something I read not long ago – a Wikipedia article about Jewish genetics. I’ll outline some of the conclusions of those studies, and explain their relevancy afterwards.
Male linage studies: A book published in 2012 that surveys previous studies concluded that all major Jewish groups share a common Middle Eastern origin, and claimed that the theory that some Ashekenazi Jews are Khazars is refuted. Another study done in 2012 claimed to prove that North African Jews are genetically close to European Jews. Another showed that Ashkenazi Jews from Germany are much closer to Sfaradic Jews than to non-Jewish Germans. Another study in 2013 found no Khazar evidence for Ashkenazi Jews and again concluded that most of the Ashkenazi Jews have common Middle Eastern origin as the Sfaradic Jews.
Female linage studies: In 2008 someone found that about 40% of Ashkenazi Jews had 4 female founders (consistent with Jewish tradition of being the children of Yaakov’s wives – Lea, Rahel, Zilpa and Bilha), but that the same is not true for Sfaradic Jews (basically claiming that many women converted to Judaism and married male Jews). In 2013 someone said the exact opposite – that about 88% of the Ashkenazi Jews had non-Middle Eastern female ancestors, suggesting that Jewish males migrated to Europe and took new wives from the local population, and converted them to Judaism. In 2014 another study contradicted both other studies.
Other studies: Looking at the whole genome, one study concluded that most Jews from all communities are descendants of ancient Hebrew and Israelite residents of the Levant. Some studies concluded that some Ashkenazi Jews are in fact descendants of Khazars. There are many other studies; many of them contradict each other.
Now to our point, we clearly see that most studies are consistent with the Jewish tradition of being mostly children of Yaakov (except for non-Israelis who accepted the Israeli religion). But, and this is a huge but, some studies (especially in the maternal case) show something completely different.
One explanation for the inconclusiveness of the DNA testing of Jews, especially in the maternal linage (which is the more important one, because according to the Tora (implicit) and Ezra (explicit) being Israeli is determined by the mother), is that a lot of women around the world converted to Judaism, but it wouldn’t be a full explanation of the facts, because we would then expect that all studies would show this or that percent of non-Middle Eastern maternal origin.
A better explanation is that DNA testing is over-hyped, and it will take some more development until we could rely on it. Commercial companies and researchers would surely disagree, but they have a personal interest.
Because we showed that it is basically impossible to believe that Pashtuns are not Bene Israel, DNA is not necessary for proving this tradition. It can only be used for proving another Pashtuns tradition – that Pashtuns did not mix with other people, but I personally think that given the current knowledge of DNA and mutation frequency, and how much the environment affects it, any result of a DNA test could be debated.
Some Pashtuns think that because Pashto is not a Semetic language it means Pashtuns are not Semetic, but it isn’t a strong enough evidence to contradict what we said above. To contradict what we said one has to explain how this tradition originated, and it is impossible.
Anyway, we should say that not only this evidence is not strong enough, it is actually not an evidence at all. Jews in Europe spoke 3 languages – Hebrew, the language of their country (Franch in France, German in Germany etc) and Yidish. Yidish has only a few Semetic elements and is closer to German, and was used for daily communication between Jews in Europe. Jews in Spain and Portugal also spoke 3 languages – Hebrew, Spanish and Ladino. Ladino was the Yidish of the Jews in Spain and Portugal. In Arabic countries, again, the Jews spoke 3 languages – Hebrew, Arabic and Judeo-Arabic. The later was the Yidish of Jews in Arabic countries.
It is true that the Pashtuns do not speak Hebrew, But I think it is highly probable that Pashto is the Yidish of Pashtuns. It is also possible that Pashtuns didn’t need another foreign language (like Jews needed to know German or Spanish) because unlike Jews, Pashtuns had their own territory. It might be just a wild theory, but it might have been used, like Yidish, so that Pashtuns won’t mix with other nations, as it is very common, even today, that a Pashtun doesn’t believe that another person is Pashtun too unless he knows Pashto.
In any case, there are some words that greatly resemble words in Hebrew. For example:
Gazera means carrot. In Hebrew it is Gezer (sometimes pronounced Gazer, and written in the same way).
Dor means an era. In Hebrew the word Dor refers to an era or a generation.
Orezy means rice. In Hebrew it is Orez.
Qurban means sacrifice. In Hebrew it is Qorban (Written in the exact same way as Qurban). This word is used in Arabic too, but it is interesting that there isn’t a Pashto word for it.
In Bannu dialect, Salom means piece. In Hebrew it is Shalom, but written in the same way as Salom (As the letter ש in Hebrew can be read as both SH and S).
Now this might sound like a very wild suggestion, but in some dialects of Pashto, the letters SH and KH are interchangeable, and this is why some Pashtuns call themselves Pakhtuns. Now the name of God in Pashto is Khuday. If it was originally Shuday, you get the name of God in Hebrew – Shaday (Shaday and Shuday are written in the exact same way in Hebrew). When i suggested it to Pashtun friends, some said that it might be an interesting theory, but some rejected it.
Even though there is only a little similarity between the Pashto and Hebrew languages, we should remember that the Pashtuns did not keep the Tora, at least since some point in history. It is highly probable that without the Tora, Jews would have forgotten Hebrew too, which is actual the case of secular Jews in the US and other countries besides Israel. It was also the case for Jews during the Babylonian exile – very quickly the spoken language of the Jews became Aramaic, which was the spoken language during the second temple (even in the holy land) and afterwards, when Hebrew was mainly used for studying Tora and praying (and even that was done in Aramaic too, like our prayer that is named Kadish and the book of Zohar).
This makes the lack of sufficient similarity between Hebrew and Pashto a non-evidence for not being Bene Israel, and certainly isn’t enough to contradict what we wrote above.
In this wikipedia article, the Aryan origin theory of Indians is outlined. The theory was created by foreign scholars in the late 18th century and was based mainly on the Pashto language. Later on, scholars found some genetic and archaeological evidence that support this theory, but not necessarily specifically for Pashuns’ origin.
We must notice a few important things about the 2 theories:
1. The Bene Israel origin is recorded by Pashtuns and foreign historians, and is even evident in Aramaic stone tablets from around 200 BC (!), and not as a theory but as a fact, while the Aryan origin was created, just as a tentative theory, only in the late 18th century.
2. The Bene Israel origin comes from the Pashtuns themselves, while the theory of Pashtuns being Aryans was thought of by foreigners.
3. If you read carefully, you must have noticed that one of the arguments in favour of the Bene Israel origin is that there is no record of inventing the theory, and if it was false, the event of creating it should have been recorded or remembered. Because such an even is not recorded nor remembered, and because Pashtuns themselves claimed that this is their origin, it is possible to believe that this tradition is authentic – something the Pashtuns always knew to be true, and it also makes it a traditionrather than theory.
In contrast to that, in the case of the Aryan origin theory, the event of creating the theory is remembered and recorded, so we know for sure that it was created (and by foreigners), and therefore it is completely impossible to believe it is authentic, and cannot be regarded as a tradition but only as a theory.
It is also noticeable that while the creators and proponents of the Aryan theory were able to convince some Pashtuns it is true, many Pashtuns know it is false and believe in the Bene Israel tradition, just like we predicted above – a whole nation cannot be convinced to believe a created theory about their origin.
4. The Aryan theory mainly explains the similarity of the Pashto language to Aryan languages. That said, the language is not the only fact that needs to be explained, and this theory completely fails to explain the Tora-based customs of the Pashtuns and the mere existence of the tradition of being Bene Israel. At least for me, it is much easier to believe that a nation changed its language than to believe that a nation started keeping parts of the Tora without any apparent reason, and that a nation can wake up one morning and decide they are something they are not.
As far as I know, none of the proponents has ever tried to fully explain those common traditions, given the Aryan theory. They are are just ignored, and I’m 100% sure they can’t ever be explained in a plausible way. Unlike them, see above (the end of the Pashto section) how the relatively small similarity between Pashto and Hebrew can be easily explained given the Bene Israel tradition.
5. As suggested above in our analysis of the origin of the Bene Israel tradition, those who believe in the Aryan theory are basically calling the 16th century Pashtuns liars. They are also calling those who believed them (their children and neighbouring nations) complete idiots. Alternatively, they are claiming that someone forced the Pashtuns in to believing they are Bene Israel.
As far as I know, none of the proponents has ever tried to explain those strange and highly implausible claims. Those implicit claims are just ignored, and I’m 100% sure they can’t ever be explained in a plausible way.
6. We already talked above about genetic tests for ethnicity, and in this case, no one even claims there is a conclusive genetic evidence for this theory.
7. Archaeological evidence is even worse, as most archaeological evidence can be interpreted in many ways, which is why there is even more controversy between archaeologists than geneticists. Moreover, archaeological evidence can only suggest that there were once Aryans in Afghanistan. Even if it’s true, it doesn’t mean that the Pashtuns are their descendants.
I personally conclude from this, and believe it is the only rational conclusion, that the Aryan theory is the result of arrogance and imagination of foreign scholars who thought they know who the Pashtuns are better than the Pashtuns themselves. Thus, I find this theory to be no more than a bad joke. Further more, I have great suspicion about the motive of some of today’s proponents of this theory, but this is a topic for another article.
There is also a theory that the Pashtuns are Israelites mixed with Aryans. In my opinion, the proponents of this theory understand that the Bene Israel tradition is undeniable, but refuse to admit that the Aryan origin theory is nonsense. Anyway, any theory that includes the Aryan theory is baseless, because it is based on the baseless theory of the Aryan origin.
Other nations who claim they are Bene Israel
From the same reasons outlined above, I believe every nation that has a wide-spread tradition of being Bene Israel, are really descendent of Bene Israel. That said, being Bene Israel and having our father Yaakov as an ancestor is not the same thing. There are 2 types of nations who are Bene Israel:
- People who kept the religion of Moses and Israel (what is called now Judaism) all along. They are Bene Israel because non-Israelis who married them, accepted the religion too, and Moses taught Bene Israel that if someone accepts that religion and goes through a certain process (called Giyur in Hebrew), he becomes an Israeli himself (Moses’ own wife, Sipora, was actually a convert).
- People who are descendents of Bene Israel who didn’t keep the religion of Moses and Israel, but didn’t mix with other people.
The faces of all the people who claim they are Bene Israel prove they mixed, and they generally do not deny that they mixed. Jews mixed too, but they kept Judaism, so they fall in to the first category (Jews who married non-Jews were thrown out of the Jewish community and were considered dead to them. This is still true for today’s religious Jews, and until not long ago, all Jews were religious). On the other hand, those other people who both mixed and did not keep Judaism, although they are descendants of Bene Israel to some extent, they are not Bene Israel themselves, as they do not fall into either category.
What’s special about the Pashtuns is that although Pashtuns do not keep Judaism today (except for some small portions like not eating some non-kosher animals), according to Pashtuns’ tradition, they did not mix. And unlike other nations who have the tradition of being descendants of Bene Israel, the face of the Pashtuns do not prove they mixed.
So the question is whether one believes the tradition that Pashtuns didn’t mix with other nations or doesn’t. It is less provable than the tradition of being Bene Israel, because if Pashtuns did mix and stopped mixing at some generation A, it is possible that the tradition of not mixing was created at a later generation B, if they didn’t mix for enough generations.
That said, I think it is more likely that they didn’t mix than that they did. One reason is because the current situation is that most Pashtuns are not mixing. Another reason is that I can’t find a good reason why at some generation A they’d stop mixing after they mixed before that. And finally, we know from Moses (Deuteronomy 30), from Yehezkel (37), from Yirmiya (31), Yishaaya (51, 27), and from many other prophecies that the Bene Israel are out there (those who were exiled by the damn Assyrian). Because we know they don’t keep Judaism, the only possibility for them to exist as Israelis is by not mixing, and there is one, and only one, nation that fits those conditions, and it is the Pashtuns.
I should note that if some of the Pashtun tribes are descendants of Bene Israel and others aren’t, and the Pashtuns mixed within themselves, that would exclude Pashtuns from category 2. Yet, as far as I know, mixing even between tribes is rare (or at least was rare until recently). So I guess that if you are a Pashtun and the elders of your tribe say you are Bene Israel and that your tribe’s ancestors didn’t mix with tribes that aren’t Bene Israel, then you are Israeli. Otherwise, there might be some doubts in case some tribes (those that don’t have this tradition) weren’t original Pashtuns but adopted the Pashtuns’ culture at some point in history.
Well, as a Jew who prayed for and dreamt of meeting the other (non Jews) Bene Israel, I am extremely excited. If you are a Pashtun and you don’t want to admit being an Israeli, I think you are not being rational.
First, being Israelis is a source of pride. It means you are the children of Prophet Yaakov. It means you were the first to believe in the one and only God, more that 1500 years before the Arabs. Your ancestors prayed to the one and only God while the Arabs were complete pagans, bowing to all sorts of idols who don’t have power over anything. It is also very likely that other prophets are your forefathers. For example, it is very likely you are descendants of Prophet Moses himself if you are Lewani. Your great great… great grandfather might have been Moses’ best student – prophet Yehoshua if you are Afridi, etc. Your ancestors saw with their eyes what God did to Egypt – stuff that no other nation but the Egyptians themselves have witnessed. They heard God talking to them on Mount Sinai, etc.
Second, If you think Israel or Jews are some kind of evil maniacs, then you should read this. Once you learn the truth you could be happier with being from the same nation as the Jews. In that article you can also find out why Jews are so excited to realize the Pashtuns are Bene Israel.
So if you are a Pashtun and you are comfortable with the fact that we are you and you are us, you are invited to our facebook group – The People of Israel – Pashtuns and Jews. If you are a Jew and you are excited you are welcome too of course.
Side note for Jews
Some Jews might doubt the un-provable (given current genetics science) tradition of Pashtuns not mixing. I would like to prove to them that our Rabbies of the Mishne and Talmud knew that they won’t mix. First of all, there are many prophecies that the 10 tribes are going to return to the holy land (like Yehezkel 37, Yirmiya 31, Yishaaya 51 and 27, and many others, that talk about the 10 tribes specifically).
Second, If a non-Israeli marries an Israeli woman, they are not really married according to Halacha (Jewish law), but if he is Israeli from the 10 tribes, then they are really married and she must get divorced according to Halacha if she wants to marry an Israeli. On this topic, the Talmud says in Yevamot 16: “If a non-Jew married an Israeli woman according to Halacha, we are concerned that they might actually be married, because he might be from the 10 tribes”. The Talmud then asks: “But when someone is in front of us and we don’t know who he is, we assume he came from the majority of people, and the majority of people are not from the 10 tribes, so we shouldn’t be concerned”. The Talmud then says that this is only true in their land – the land where the 10 tribes live, because over there they are the majority. So the Talmud believes that the 10 tribes are still the majority in their land. If they had mixed this would not have been the case, unless there was only a little mixing going on.
Finally, we have the Mishna in Sanhedrin 10:3, where Ribbie Akiva said the 10 tribes don’t have a part in the next world, while Ribbie Eliezer said they have. Rashi simply said that they talked about the generation that was exiled, but even Ribbie Akiva admits that their descendants surely have a part in the next world. There’s no doubt this is the case, otherwise Ribbie Akiva would be in a disagreement with Yehezkel, Yishaaya and Jeremaya, and we know he can’t be.
So the prophets and the Talmud all say that the 10 tribes are out there, in their land they are the majority, and they are still Israelis, even after all these years. There’s one, and only one, nation that doesn’t look like they mixed, has Tora-based traditions, has a tradition of being Bene Israel, and even has a tradition of not mixing. They are the Pashtuns, our brothers, Bene Israel.
So a Jew who believes in the prophets and that our Talmud’s Rabbies knew what they were talking about shouldn’t doubt the tradition of the Pashtuns not mixing with other nations. And I’m not a Rav myself, but I think there might be a consequence for Halacha here – if we meet a random Pashtun, we can’t ask him to do something that is forbidden on Shabath, serve him anything not Kosher (from the non-Kosher stuff they do eat – some of the Kosher laws the Pashtuns do keep), etc, because as the Talmud said, in their land they are the majority.
By Nadav Sofy
The writer earns his living as a software developer, and spends his free time trying hard to bring the people of Israel closer to God and to each other. He has huge love and respect for the Pashtun nation and he is 100% sure that Pashtuns are his brothers, Bene Israel, the children of prophets Avraham, Yishak and Yaakov. The writer can be reached at
(The views expressed by this writer do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of THE PASHTUN TIMES)
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