Southern Africa’s Lost Tribe of Israel


Africa is positively peppered with peoples of Jewish descent at every corner. You probably know that Jews hail from Morocco and Ethiopia, and perhaps also from Ghana and Kenya. But did you know that the south is Lemba territory?

The Lemba ethnic group have lived in what is now South Africa and Zimbabwe for about 2,500 years, ever since an adventurous group of Israelites split from Judea after the destruction of the first Temple and made for warmer climes.

Today, many Lemba identify as Christians or Muslims, but their claims of Jewish ancestry speak for themselves. They keep kosher-like diets, observe a day of rest on Saturday, and worship a monotheistic and abstract God. Male children are circumcised on their eighth birthdays—reminiscent of the eighth-day Jewish circumcision custom.

And if that isn’t evidence enough, genetic testing has found that more than 50% of the Lemba Y-chromosomes are Semitic, and that a substantial number of Lemba men carry the Cohen modal haplotype, a genetic marking found in, you guessed it, many Jews of priestly lineage.

And there’s this: the Lemba possess a religious artifact known as the “ngoma lungundu,” thought to be the original Ark of the Covenant. Here’s the powerful translation: “drum that thunders.”


Watch a documentary on the Lost Tribes of Israel:

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