Lemba tribe in southern Africa has Jewish roots, genetic tests reveal

Genetic tests carried out by British scientists have revealed that many of the Lemba tribesmen in southern Africa have Jewish origins, according to a report by the BBC. The Lemba, a tribe of 70,000 to 80,000 members who live in central Zimbabwe and northern South Africa, have customs which are similar to Jewish ones: Lemba refrain from eating pork or other foods forbidden by the Torah, or forbidden combinations of permitted foods, wear yarmulke-like skull caps, conduct ritual animal slaughter, have a holy day once a week, and even put a Star of David on their gravestones. According to their oral tradition, the Lemba are descended from seven Jewish men who left Israel 2,500 years ago and married African women, according to the BBC. The Lemba prefer their children to marry other Lembas, and marriage to non-Lembas is being discouraged.

Their sacred prayer language is a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic. Their religious artifact is a replica of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant known as the ‘ngoma lungundu’, meaning "the drum that thunders.” The object went on display recently at a museum in Harare, Zimbabwe, and has instilled pride in many of the Lemba. They say the ark was built almost 700 years ago from the remains of the original ark, which according to the Bible was used to store the Ten Commandments. For decades, the ancient vessel was thought to be lost until it was discovered in a storeroom in Harare recently.

Members of the priestly clan of the Lemba, the Buba – which is one of 12 clans – have a genetic element also found among the Jewish priestly line, known as Kohanim. "This was amazing," Professor Tudor Parfitt from the University of London told the BBC. "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.”

Despite their roots, many of the tribe are now Christians or Muslims.

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Comments

Matome Mfopa

Mon, 10 Apr 2017

I would like to join my long lost family church, I am a lemba from buba tree,

Kwame Kubiti Adzadzi

Sun, 02 Apr 2017

I am happy for the lembe. Ghana also two main tribes who trace their ancestry from Isreal. They claim to have travelled from Isreal to Egypt Ethiopia to Sudan and finally Ghana but the don't claim to be of priestly origin. These tribes are the Ga and the Ewes. Most of their rituals are similar to that of the Isrealites of old. Eg. They circumcise their male on the eight day and an uncircumcised male is seen as unclean. I would be glad if you research into the veracity of their claim.

Azo Kone

Wed, 29 Mar 2017

Do the Kemba have surnames like Kone

Ray Cobb

Wed, 29 Mar 2017

I would love more information about this subject.

Deborah

Fri, 24 Mar 2017

I would like to thank you for this article; because it confirmed some suspicions that I had about Africans being Jewish. One day as I read Judges 4 and I could not understand why; God kept punishing the Israelites? Then I realized, it was because of their constant disobedience that God had allowed them to be thrown into slavery. In addition, a red flag went off in my curious mind and I realized that this just sounds too much like people of color. As a result, my research began and this article along with other material had confirmed my suspicions. Furthermore, my dad gave me a powerful name and that is Deborah; she is also located in the book of Judges. Moreover, my curiosity intensified and I began comparing the ownership of land to women with Family Law and I realized that God had giving land to women. Anyway, I have a strong desire of becoming a Lawyer someday. Again awesome article!

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