By Dean Nelson, Telegraph, 11 January, 2010
Experts at Mumbai's National Institute of Immeunohaematology believe Pashtuns could be one of the ten "Lost Tribes of Israel".
The Israeli government is funding a genetic study to establish if there is any proof of the link.
An Indian geneticist has taken blood samples from the Pashtun Afridi tribe in Lucknow, Northern India, to Israel, where she will spend the next 12 months comparing DNA with samples with those of Israeli Jews.
The samples were taken in Lucknow's Malihabad area because it was regarded as the only place safe enough to conduct such a controversial project for Muslims.
Shahnaz Ali, a senior research fellow, will lead the study at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Tel Aviv.
There are an estimated 40 million Pashtuns around the world, including more than 14 million in Afghanistan and 28 million in Pakistan, mainly in the North West Frontier Province and Tribal areas, but also with a strong presence in Karachi.
Many have grown up with stories of their people being "Children of Israel". According to legend, they are descended from the Ephraim tribe which was driven out of Israel by the Assyrian invasion in around 700 BC.
Evidence of ancient Jewish settlement has been found in Herat, close to afghanistan's border with Iran, where a graveyard contains tombs inscribed in Hebrew. The Afghan capital Kabul also has centuries-old synagogue which has long been abandoned.
Navras Aafreedi, a leading researcher on the Lost Tribes of Israel, said the DNA investigation could have major repercussions.
"It could be seen as scientific validation of traditional belief about the Israelite origin of [Pashtuns] and can have interesting ramifications for Muslim-Jew relations in particular and the world at large," he said.