Friday, 18 January 2008

Looking for lost tribes of Israel in Malihabad

Eyal Beeri with 92-year-old Qavi Kamal Khan, the oldest Afridi Pathan of Malihabad

Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi in conversation with Eyal Beeri

92-year-old Qavi Kamaal Khan, the oldest Afridi Pathan/Pashtun of Malihabad

Ashish Tripathi, The Times of India, Lucknow, November 12, 2007

It was not just the delightful dussehri mangoes which made Eyal Beeri come all the way from Jerusalem to Malihabad, a township 25 kilometres from Lucknow. A librarian and student adviser in the Lander Institute of Jerusalem, the historian is the latest one to arrive in search of the lost tribes of Israel, which have brought many scholars from world over to India since ages. But Beeri’s visit is significant as he is the first Jew and Israeli to visit the Pathan settlement of Malihabad.

History has it that the 10 Israelite tribes of the northern Kingdom of Israel were exiled by the Assyrians invaders in 721 BC. The tribes eventually went into oblivion with the passage of time. Since then efforts are being made to track them down. It is also believed that some of the descendants of the tribes settled in India. Afridi Pathans of Malihabad are said to be one of them. Prof Tudor Parfitt and Dr Yulia Egorova of London University had visited Malihabad in 2002 to take DNA samples of the Afridi Pathans to ascertain whether they had an Israeli lineage or not.

In league with the famous losttribes-explorers like Benjamin of Tudela and Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, Beeri arrived in India on September 16. During his three weeks expedition, he first visited Pathan settlements in Rajasthan. His second stop was Malihabad before leaving for Qayamganj in Farrukhabad. The purpose of his visit is to study the age-old customs and traditions of Pathans and find if they have any resemblance to the Israeli traditions. His objective was to educate the Pathans about Israel and to help them form relationship with
the Jewish community the world over.

“India fascinates me. I feel a positive energy inside me whenever I am here,” said Beeri recalling his earlier two visits. “My maternal grandfather had come from Baghdad to settle in Israel. He belonged to the famous Sassoon family of Jews, descendants of which are also settled in Mumbai. Perhaps this could be a reason why I feel at home in this country,” he said. Beeri is particularly interested in the lives and customs of the Muslim tribes. India provides him an opportunity to understand Muslims closely which is not possible in Israel because of the Muslim-Jew confrontation.

Beeri came across two Pathan tribes, Musakhel and Mohammedzai, living in villages around Jaipur and Ajmer. Some of the traditions followed by these tribes since ages have some resemblance, if not striking similarities, with that of Jews, he said. “One of the tribes had the custom of circumcising their male child six days after the birth. In Jews it is done eight days after the birth,” he said. “Pathans don’t eat camel meat, which is also forbidden for Jews. Like ‘Pathanwali’ in Pathans, Jews also have a code of conduct, ‘Torah Laws’, passed on from one generation to another,” he added.

In Malihabad, Beeri visited the family of Qavi Kamal Khan, now over 90-year-old and the eldest Afridi Pathan in the area. Khan was averse to the idea of being linked with Jews but he welcomed the Israeli guest with warmth. Beeri was escorted by a young research scholar Navras Jaat Aafreedi, an Afridi Pathan himself, who has conducted a research which supports the theory of Jewish origin of the Afridis. In fact, Navras said, some historians believe that the word “Pathan” has been derived from “Pithon”, the name of the great grandson of King Saul, the first King of Israel. Navras elaborated that many Pathan tribes came to India between 1202 AD and 1761 AD along with Muslim and Afghani invaders and later settled in different parts of the country. “Afridi Pathans of Malihabad came from the Khyber tribe of the North Western Frontier Province, now in Pakistan. There are historical texts which support Jewish origin of the Afridi Pathans,” he claimed. “But today they are ignorant about their Jewish origin and have even forgotten their ancestral language. They speak in local dialects and have produced great Urdu poets like Josh Malihabadi,” he added.


paarsurrey said...


I am not a Pathan myself but I have lot of freinds who are Pathan. Somehow I am interested in the subject.

Please don't mind; what is this Navras; of what language it is?

I was of the opinion that jaats are a separate people; they have no concern with the Pathans. Maybe I am wrong.

May GodAllahYHWH bless you.

Pay my regards to your grandfather.


Anonymous said...


I just want to know the History of Pathans in India.


Anonymous said...

salaam wa alai kum
my nam is shuaib,I come from a patan descended family in south frica,navras i would love to journey with you in search of the Patan origin,i am just as interested and intruiged as you are i would love if you could assist in helping me to answer some question on my ancestural background.
Is it true that Patans descended from Jews.
Heres my email address

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Jonah Lissner said...


In synopsis after the Medean peoples and Persian peoples of circa 600 BCE destroyed the Assyrian empire, Israeli tribes who had been exiled could restore their communication across the region from the Indus to the Nile River. At that time the regional powers vied for control of that geographical area of Western Asia and Northeast Africa.

It is possible the Israelites mentioned in the Book of Esther c. 400 BCE and other sources continued their observance of that form of Torah, and are the basis for the continuation of the peoples of West and South Asia that claim or possess some or full ancestry from Israelites including Pashtun, Kashmiris, Kurds and others.

One of the important languages of the Achaemenid Empire was Aramaic, spoken by Israelites as well as Hebrew, and was spoken commonly in that region at least through the Parthian era c. 200 CE. There are documented monuments and architecture of both languages throughout the region.

If one considers the number of locations of cities and fortifications along the Silk Route/Asian Trade Route the practical explanation for the relocation of the Israelite tribes, the legends of Tobit and Saul accrue value.

Subsequent additions over centuries from Medean, Greco-Bactrian and Parthian-era Israelite and Jewish migrations among the many other peoples of the region, strengthens the hypothesis for fairly contiguous migration and sustaining of Torah and Israelite socioculture in Asia [and Africa] over centuries of the Exile.

The commonality of Pashtunwali with Mishnah Torah and the classical folk traditions of some Pashtun tribes indicate a lengthy observance or identification with Israeli and Solomonic to Classical-era Jewish customs. This is also documented in other Southwest and South Asian peoples and tribes including Kurds and Kashmiris.

Recall that c. 700 CE The expansion of Islam at the Khyber region began through Kais, a major Pashtun elder who according to legend chose to advance Islam due to its similarities to the early Torah of the purported Pashtun-Israelite "Bani Israel" exiles, or those Pashtun who are of some or partial Israelite ancestry, and not all contemporary Afghan nationals, regardless of South Asian territorial claims.

In my research there is also a tradition of Israelite conversion in Southwest, South and Central Asia all in my hypothesis and research of Hebrew and Israelite history across Africa and Asia, due to Israelite migration and conversions to Torah observance from c. 1500 BCE to 1000 CE across the region from the Tigris to the Indus Rivers.

Jonah Lissner
Independent Researcher of Sciences and PhD Student