One subject of the Lost Tribes which has generally been ignored which I found to be personally fascinating are the tribe of the Pathans.
The Pathans are about 15 million people living mainly in Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as in Persia and India. They have a tradition of being of the Lost Tribes and have Israeli customs.
The Pathans have custom of circumcision on the 8th day. This is a known Jewish custom, and is the oldest Jewish tradition. I myself witnessed and was present at a very joyous circumcision ceremony on the 8th day after birth. Muslims have custom of circumcision but it is not on the 8th day, and usually at the age of 12.
The Pathans have a sort of small Tallit called Kafan. This is a 4 cornered garment which they tie strings similar to the fringes (Jews call them Tzitzit) and is one of the oldest Jewish traditions going back to the Torah and it is a sign of their Israeli origin. They also have bigger Tallit which they call Joy-Namaz. It is a garment 2-3 meters sq., and it is made to cover the head and part of the shoulders, and is used for prayer by spreading on the ground in the Muslim fashion. It has no fringes.
The Pathans have custom of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is considered a day of rest and they do not labor, cook or bake. The Pathans prepare 12 Hallot (traditional Jewish bread, Leviticus 24:5) in honor of the Sabbath as was done in the ancient temple. One of the significant indicators proving the Israeli origins of the Pathans is the lighting of the candle to honor the Sabbath. After lighting, the candle is covered usually by a large basket. The candle is lit by a woman past her menopause.
Pathans Live in Customs of Israelites
Pathans have custom of Kosher, dietary laws same as Jews. Pathans do not eat horse or camel meat, which is most common in their area but of course forbidden to Jews. There is some evidence to their not eating meat and milk together which is also an ancient Israeli tradition. And they have a tradition regarding differentiating between pure and impure birds which means permitted and not permitted birds similar to the Torah.
Some still wear a small box which Jews call Tefillin (phylactery) containing a verse of the Bible. This box resemble Japanese Tokin of Yamabushi’s forehead, too. This is an ancient custom of Israel. In the Jewish box there is the verse of Shema Israel, that is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) This custom of Tefillin came from a verse of the Scriptures, “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:8).
It is interesting to note that the Pathans retain family names of the Lost Tribes such as Asher, Gad, Naphtali, Reuben and Manasseh and Ephraim. Among them there are people who are called by these names, which are of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. There are also people who are called Israel, Samuel, and so on, which are never found among the Muslims. There are also many areas as locations, neighborhoods and villages with names of places that are similar to names in the land of Israel.
The region has archeological finds testifying to a Hebrew past, and they also resemble Jews of the area and their language Pashtu surprisingly has many Hebrew words. The Pathans are also called Afghans, or sons of the Pashtu which is their language, were mostly called “Bani-Israel” meaning children of Israel even though they live today as devout Muslims.
The external appearance of the Pathans resemble the Jews of the area. Together with their ancient customs and other data there is a definite connection that can be made to the Tribes of Israel.
The Pathans number 6 to 7 million in Afghanistan and 7 to 8 million in Pakistan. They live in the border area between these two countries and about 2 million live as nomads. These Pathans desire for their independence, which is supported by Afghanistan and is a cause of constant tension in Pakistan which does not desire their independence.
Pathans’ Law Resembles the Torah
Afghanistan is one of the least developed countries of Asia and the majority of the population is illiterate. They work primarily in farming and sheep-raising and other domesticated animals.
Most people still live in villages and some even live as nomads. It is a country that is ruled by Islamic religious law and more than 90 % of the population are Sunni Muslims. But whatever modernization has taken place, it has not reached the mountainous border areas. Here the Pathans continue their centuries old tribal life.
The legal system which is known as Pashtunwali, the law of the Pashtu, is very similar to the Torah, which is the holiest Jewish book and the book of ancient Jewish way of life. There are pages and even complete books among the pathans and they honor greatly what is called Tavrad El Sharif (the Torah of Moses), and they rise at the mention of the name of Moses even though it is not important in Islam.
The Pathans are very healthy, tall, and have strong light-skinned appearance. They are warriors and carry arms from a young age, they are hardworking, wise, truthful and extremely loyal and they also have a worldwide reputation for exemplary hospitality.
The ethnic origin of these Pathans has puzzled people for some time because they are different both externally and in the character traits from the other groups around them such as the Turks, the Mongolians, the Persians, or the Indo-Iranians. It is also difficult to trace their past history in a region in which tens of nations and major tribes of various origins have come and gone.
The personal identification of the Pathan Tribes with their Israelite origin is expressed in various ways. Besides the oral tradition related by the elders of the tribe, there are also interesting testimonies of keeping of scrolls of genealogy among the tribes, reaching back to the Fathers of the Jewish nation.
These scrolls are well preserved and some are written in gold on the skins of a doe. No less interesting and significant are the names of the tribes which bear close resemblance to the Tribes of Israel. The Rabbani Tribe is really Reuben, the Shinware Tribe is Shimon, the Lewani Tribe is Levi, The Daftani Tribe is Naphtali, and the Jaji Tribe is Gad, and the Ashuri Tribe is Asher, The Yusefsai Tribe is sons of Joseph, and the Afridi Tribe is really Ephraim. These are the names of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
The Pathans themselves point out the differences between the original names of the tribes and their present names are because of the different dialects of the languages so that, for instance, Jaji was actually called Gaji for the tribe of Gad.
There are some Jews of Afghanistan today who count the Tribe of Israel among the Pathans. The physical similarity between the Pathans and other Jews is exemplified by the British ruled Afghanistan for a great length of time and called the Pathans Jews. When not wearing their traditional clothing Pathans are indistinguishable from other Jews of the area. Among the 21 nations of Afghanistan only the Pathans and the Jews have Semitic features, their faces are longer and lighter, and some even have blue eyes. Like the Jews of the area, Pathans grow beards and sidelocks which further serve to make them indistinguishable from Jews.
Israeli Features of the Pathans
The Pathans have many other features as descendants of Israelites.
Their wedding is like Jewish. Wedding ceremony with the Pathans includes a marriage canopy and rings similar to the Jewish custom.
Women of the Pathans keep laws similar to the Jewish laws regarding menstruation. During this time and for 7 days after, no contact is allowed with the husband. After this period, the woman immerses in a river or spring or in a bathhouse if a natural spring is not available. This is exactly the same as the Israeli tradition going back to the days of the Bible.
Pathans have custom of levirate marriage, which is the custom when a husband dies without children, his brother marries the widow to keep the name of the house. This custom no longer exists today, but was an ancient Israeli custom mentioned in the Bible (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).
The commandment to honor one’s parent is kept in exemplary manner in these tribes. The son must obey the parents in all matters. When the father enters the room all stand and bow their heads in his honor. This was a Israeli tradition as well.
Pathans have custom of Yom Kippur. We know of some of the members of the Lewani Tribe who came to the Jewish synagogue on Yom Kippur each year in Afghanistan. He would stay there until sundown without uttering even one word. He spoke of the tradition of the Temple on this day and of the high priest and his work there.
One year he erred in his calendar and did not come, he wept bitterly for one week for missing the observance of this day.
The Pathans have custom of scapegoat. In ancient Israel there was the custom to put sins of the nation onto a goat and send the goat away to desert. This custom of scapegoat was done to atone the sins of the nation (Leviticus chapter 16). Similar custom is found even today among the Pathans.
The Pathans usually pray in mosque. However some pray towards Jerusalem which is most unusual. There are some very old synagogues in their area and Pathans come to these synagogues on special days in times of great stress or tragedies or for special prayers. The individual who seeks help comes there to touch the lock and to pray. There are those who say that these places once contained scrolls of the Torah. This is interesting because today they are actually devout Muslims.
At the time of plague the Pathans slaughter a sheep and sprinkle its blood on the doorpost of their homes. This is what the Israelites did in ancient Egypt during the plagues that occurred there.
An interesting testimony relates to the placing of a wrapped book of Psalms of the Bible under the pillow of the ill in order to heal that person.
There are those who have said that there are Amulets written in Hebrew. Some contain the phrase “Shema Israel” and it is secretly written by the head of the tribe and it is forbidden to open it.
And the symbol of Shield of David (Star of David) is found in almost every Pathan house. The wealthy make it out of expensive metals and the poor out of simple wood. It can be seen in towers, in schools and also in tools, bracelets, and jewelry. I saw it at least 20 times in a variety of places. In Minerajan, the center of Afghanistan, there are even schools that have the Shield of David on the door or in the stone above the door.