Zimbabwe Tribe Members Have Jewish DNA

Published: March 9th 2010

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British scientists have proven that a Zimbabwe tribe claiming to be Jewish indeed is, according to a BBC report from Saturday.


The members of the Lemba tribe as it is called have distinct Jewish traditions: They wear kippot, pray in Hebrew, and draw stars of David on their headstones. They also prize a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, which they call “ngoma lungundu,” which translates to “the drum that thunders.” Ynet reported that they maintain Jewish customs such as circumcision, Kosher slaughter and prohibition of pork.


The Lemba are made up of 12 tribes. One is a priestly class whose members contain a gene that is found in Cohanim, said the BBC. Ynet added that the tribe numbers around 80,000 and resides in central Zimbabwe and northern South Africa. According to their oral tradition, their ancestors were Jewish and left the holy land 2,500 years ago, before the destruction of the second temple. While many have converted to Christianity, they still maintain their Jewish customs.


DNA tests have now confirmed that the Lemba carry the Semitic gene and thus confirmed their Jewish origin.


Professor Tudor Parfitt from the University of London was astonished to discover the many Jewish customs practiced by the Lemba, and was quoted in Ynet as saying: "This was amazing. It looks as if the Jewish priesthood continued in the West by people called Cohen, and in same way it was continued by the priestly clan of the Lemba. They have a common ancestor who geneticists say lived about 3,000 years ago somewhere in north Arabia, which is the time of Moses and Aaron when the Jewish priesthood started."


The whereabouts of many of the Jewish tribes of Biblical times are still unknown. The tribes of Reuben, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim and Manasseh were exiled from the kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) by the Assyrians in 722 BCE. There are claims that the tribe of Simeon was also one of the exiled tribes, although the book of Joshua claims that Simeon lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Babylonian exile, during which the tribes in the Southern Kingdom were sent into exile, occurred in 587 BCE, following the destruction of the First Temple.


Over the years, many groups have claimed descent from specific tribes, and in most cases preliminary scientific evidence excluded many of them.

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