Black Jewish Tribes of Africa (Part 3: From Ethiopia to Israel) — Jide Uwechia

Tacitus, Ethiopians and Black St. Paul

Roman historian Tacitus wrote that many of his time believed that the Jews “were a race of Ethiopian origin.”

The Bible classifies the Ethiopians & Jews together, “Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord.” (Amos 9:7)

Black Paul is mistaken for an “Egyptian” and declares himself to be a “Jew.” (Acts 21:37-39, 22: 2,3) 

Persia and Ashanti

It has also been speculated that the Jewish presence and influence was greatly helped by the ancient gold trade between Persia and Africa.

Jews were the main intermediaries of this trade in the medieval ages since most Muslims (due to Islamic laws prohibition on usury) were wary of its usurious dimensions.

These Jewish itinerant traders came to rely on contacts with the various Jewish communities of West African who proved no mean help in sourcing the scarce commodity. Thus, for instance, the silk of the Royal Kente cloths of the Ashanti reputedly came from China. 

Various historical accounts claim that Jewish travelers from Persia had organized exchanges of Chinese silk for gold in the Kingdom of Ghana; the Ashanti needed the silk for weaving Kente cloth and the Jews need gold for their intrinsic and fiscal value. It is said that the Ashanti words for numbers relate to those in Parsi, the language of Persia. See Lichtblau.


Haplogroup E3B

The E3b haplogroup has been observed in all Jewish groups world wide. It is considered to be the 2nd most prevelent haplogroup amoung the Jewish population.

All the major studies agree that E-M35 is the second highest in prevalence next to J, for “Founding Jewish Lineages.”

It is found in moderate amounts in all Jewish populations, from Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Kurdish, Yemen, Samaritan and even among Djerba Jewish groups.

The scientific consensus is that Haplogroup E3b (M35) appears to have originated in East Africa, but has been carried from there to the Near East and then on to North Africa and Europe. Today it is most common in East Africa, North Africa, the Near East and around the Mediterranean.

Haplogroup J

Haplogroup J (previously known as HG9 or Eu9/Eu10) is a Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. t is subdivided into two subclades: haplogroup J2, defined by the M172 marker, and haplogroup J1, defined by the M267 marker.

Of special interest are maps that show the geographical spread of the J haplogroup. J1 and J2 are both common in southern Europe, central Europe, the Mediterranean region, and Africa. The J haplogroup is considered to be a signature gene of Jewish ancestry and the cohen modal gene happens to be a subgroup of J.

In fact, the highest frequencies of J1 (M267) are seen in the Middle East, north Africa, and Ethiopia. See (Thomas et al. 1999). J2 (M172) also exists in significant proportions across Africa especially among the semitic speaking peoples of Tigriniya, Amhara, and Oromiya.

The J1’s from the Middle East and North Africa seem to be distinguishable from the rest of J’s by having YCAII=22,22. Behar et al found that a significant proportion of the Jewish population of Europe (more than 20%) carry the J1 haplogroup. The other 20% carry the J2 haplogroup. See Behar et al Hum Genet (2004) 114 : 354–365

Cohen Modal Haplotype

The presence among the Lemba of a disproportionate number of men carrying a particular polymorphism on the Y chromosome known as the Cohen modal haplotype suggests an ancestral link to the Jewish population. One sub-clan within the Lemba, the Buba clan, is considered by the Lemba to be their priestly clan. Among a small sample of the Buba, fifty-two percent of males were found to carry the Cohen modal haplotype CMH, which is generally suggestive of Y-DNA haplogroup J, but notably prevalent among Jewish Kohanim, or priests.

Decline of the Black Jews of Africa

Many reasons have been sought for the decline and virtual disappearance of Africa’s once thriviing Jewish communities of black Jews. Many see the beginning of this decline as contemporaneous with the advent of the Islamic religion in Africa.

Some historical accounts highlight the fact that black Jews were die-hard nationalistic traditionalists and had led the black African resistance against the influx of the black muslim jihadists and their new interpretation of morality. The most notableof these black Jewish nationalists was Queen Kahina Dahiya Bint Thabitah ibn Tifan otherwise known as El-Kahina. A descendant of one of the priestly Black Jewish families of North Africa, Kahina led the nationalist resistance against the muslim invasion until her defeat at the hands of Hassan Ibn Numan. See Margolis, “History of Jewish people”, 1927 pages 278-279. See also Remy Ilona, “The Igbos : Jews in Africa?” volume 1, Research Findings Historical Links, Commentaries, Narratives,” 2004, Mega Press Limited, Abuja, Nigeria.

Amidst this tumult, the Jews of Northern and West Africa were given a choice of conversion or emigration. Many left for the deeper forest recesses of West Africa seeking the peace and tranquility that appeared to elude them in each generation. The late incursions by the colonialist christian elements of Europe did not make matters any better. There seems to have been a direct link between the incursion of relatively modern religions in Africa and the decline of the ancient practise of the Hebrews which had a pride of place in Africa, its mother land.

For instance the Jewish enclaves of Qamnurya or Naghira in the area of modern Senegal was destroyed completely in the wake of sectarian unrest. Similarly, Al-Maghili a prominent black Muslim noble not only destroyed the Jewish enclaves of Tuat in the old Mali empire, he convinced other potentates throughout the Western Sudan to banish Jews from the empire’s cities. See Remy Ilona, supra.

Lichtblau speculates that: although “…Jewish presence is also confirmed by numerous surviving accounts of Portuguese and other European visitors in the 14th and 15th centuries, as well as North African and Arab historical records… gradually most of these communities disappeared. Since they existed largely in isolation, there was a good deal of intermarriage which for a while reinforced their influence and expansion. As a result they were increasingly viewed as a threat by Muslim rulers, and most of the Jewish communities and nomad groups south of the Atlas mountains were either forced to convert to Islam or massacred; the remainder fled to North Africa, Egypt or the Sudan, and a few also to Cameroon and Southern Africa.”

Jide Uwechia

August 19, 2007

211 thoughts on “Black Jewish Tribes of Africa (Part 3: From Ethiopia to Israel) — Jide Uwechia”

  1. please connect me with quidah benin and the lost tribe of isreal benin was referred to as judah in 1859 the last recorded boat load of africans were illegally brough t to mobile alabama for the purpose of slavery from benin in1863 the were freed and in the mist of jim crow, segregation and reconstruction built the free community of Africatown where theh maintained their culture customs and way until the last member died in 1935 cudjo lewis help

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