Jews from India, who believe that they are one of the ten so-called lost tribes of Israel, have settled at Kiryat Arba near Hebron, reports the BBC News’ Jerusalem Diary[1]. The Hebron region is, of course, in the territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War and therefore a controversial location for any Jewish settlement. But in recent years Jews from a remote region of India between Burma and Bangladesh have made their home at Kiryat Arba.

They believe that they are descendants of the tribe of Manasseh (‘Bnei Menashe’), who it is said wandered to north-east India after they were exiled from the land of Israel by the Assyrians. In appearance, however, they are distinctly East Asian. Of this their Rabbi, Yehuda Gin, remarks: “In the external appearance it is very hard to prove that we are part of the Israel nation, or part of the tribes… We – having been lost – still adhere to our love for the land of Israel: this is a very, very strong part of the identity of the Bnei Menashe.” They have maintained Jewish traditions such as the wearing of the kipot (male head covering) and reciting of daily prayers.

Michael Freund of Shavei Yisrael (Israel Returns), an organisation he set up to gather in the communities which he believes are the lost tribes, says: “I myself was sceptical. But once I travelled to the north-east of India and I met with the members of the community and I learned more about their history and their tradition and their customs, I became convinced that they are in fact descendants of a lost tribe – that they do have a deep connection to the people of Israel.”

Certainly members of the Kiryat Arba community have a deep commitment to settlingin the Hebron region despite the daily tensions between Jews and Palestinian Arabs. As one Indian settler, Tzvi Khaute states: “Those who claim that Hebron is not Jewish, they don’t know their identity. This is a very, very important place where the Jews belong.”

The Jews, of course, belong not only to Hebron but to all the land of Israel, and today Jews are returning from all countries of the world to their homeland. In this we see the hand of God restoring His people in preparation for the return of His Son Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom. “I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers”, says Yahweh (Jer 30:3), for “When Yahweh shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory” (Psa 102:16).

Discovery of the earliest known Hebrew writing

A recently discovered inscription dating from the time of King David’s reign is believed to be the earliest surviving example of Hebrew writing[2] . The inscription deciphered by Professor Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa is evidence that Hebrew writing was common as early as the tenth century BC. Many contemporary scholars do not accept that the Bible or parts of it could have been written so early, although the Bible indicates that writing was well known in the time of Moses (Exod 17:14). But as Professor Galil has stated: “It can now be maintained that it was highly reasonable that during the 10th century BCE, during the reign of King David, there were scribes in Israel who were able to write literary texts and complex historiographies such as the books of Judges and Samuel.”

The inscription was discovered a year and a half ago during excavations directed by Professor Yosef Garfinkel near the Elah valley at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the location of a provincial town in ancient Judea. But the language of the writing was not identified until the text was closely studied by Professor Galil. He noted the inscription used verbs peculiar to Hebrew and that cultural references were specific to ancient Israel and unlike those of other societies of the region.

As Professor Galil explained: “This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans. It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah (‘did’) and avad (‘worked’), which were rarely used in other regional languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah (‘widow’) are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages. The content itself was also unfamiliar to all the cultures in the region besides the Hebrew society: The present inscription provides social elements similar to those found in the Biblical prophecies and very different from prophecies written by other cultures postulating glorification of the gods and taking care of their physical needs.”

Once again, archaeological evidence has been uncovered that gives us every reason to place confidence in the Bible as a genuine historical document and the Word of the living God. We can therefore be confident that the promises of the Bible will surely be fulfilled and that God will send His Son to “restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6) and bring blessing to all people.

The deciphered text: [3]

1’ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].

2’ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the  orph[an]

3’ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead  for the po[or and]

4’ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands  of the king.

5’ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

 References

[1] Tim Franks, ‘The tribe no longer lost’, BBC News http://

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8542911.stm Last updated 1

March 2010

[2] “Most ancient Hebrew biblical inscription deciphered”,

http://www.sciencecodex.com/most_ancient_hebrew_biblical_

inscription_deciphered Posted On: January 7, 2010 – 9:30pm

[3] www.israelnationalnews.com.010810