Dark Irony or Plain Anthropology? Taliban's Jewish Links From Ancient Days Dusted Up

As the Taliban regained Afghanistan last month after the collapse of the Afghan government, a new claim has re-emerged recently that states the Taliban are descendants of Israelites.

A new report throws a light on similarities between the Pashtun and Jewish traditions and highlights a genetic connection between Israel and the Taliban.

The Taliban is well-known for expressing their hatred for Israel. Any genetic link they may have with people of Jewish descent would be a dark irony.

However, some leading Israeli anthropologists believe that, of all the many groups in the world who claim a connection to the 10 lost tribes, the Pashtuns, or Pathans, have the most compelling case.

Taliban fighters
Taliban Fighters Wikimedia Commons

Pashtuns in the Taliban Are Related to Israel?

A report published in The Jerusalem Post emphasizes the connection between the Pashtuns and the Israelites.

The Pashtuns 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, according to the report. Even travelers in the 13th century have mentioned these similarities. Over the next 400 years, other Islamic scholars and writers noted the existence 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, reported The Post said.

Paradoxically it is from the Pashtuns that the ultra-conservative Islamic Taliban movement in Afghanistan emerged. Another report in the Guardian notes that though Pashtuns sometimes talk of their Israelite connection, they show no sympathy with the modern Israeli state.

For last several years, scientists are trying to determine whether the Pathans themselves are directly descended from the tribe of Ephraim which was exiled from the land of Israel by the invading Assyrians in 721 B.C. Pathan folklore and culture are filled with references to an Israelite past, according to ABC News.

The last king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, who reigned in Kabul until 1973, reportedly claimed his family was descended from what he called the tribe of Benjamin.

The Bible Written in Hebrew was Given to the Persian Shah

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."

Route of the Israelites to Afghanistan and India

Similarly, Major Henry W. Bellew, an officer in the British colonial Indian Army, wrote about the Pashtuns in The Lost Tribes in 1861. He wrote that the naming of Pashtun tribes and districts in closely resembled the Jewish traditions. Evidence has also been found from the arrival of Israelis to Afghanistan and India.

Former Israeli President Talks More About the Connection Between Afghan Tribes and the Jews

The late President of Israel, Yitzchak Ben-Zawi, in his book The Exiled and the Redeemed, devoted an entire chapter to Afghan tribes and the traditions of their origin.

"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," he wrote.