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In my last article, I wrote about the new and growing friendship between Black Churches and Israel, even as the centre of gravity of Christianity shifts from the Northern to the Southern hemispheres. We also promised to write next about some of the ancient African Jewish communities and that is our topic today.
Some ancient African Jewish communities are well known, such those across Mediterranean North Africa as well as some of the Lemba in Ethiopia. Some recent scholarship has claimed Jewish Ancestry for several different groups of the Lemba, even as far further south as Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. These scholars believe that the traditions of people like the Lemba are pre-Second Temple Israelite and have a Southern Arabian (Yemeni) and Ethiopian origin.
Historically several other Jewish groups also existed in the Bilad el-Sudan of West Africa, as well as along the coast and islands of that region. Researchers have claimed the possibility that groups of the Igbo, Ibibio and Annang of South Eastern Nigeria, as well as several clusters in the Cameroon might also have Jewish ancestry. However whether or not this is the case, most of these groups have certainly become non-halachic over the centuries and many are now Christian or Muslim. Even where they have provable Jewish cultural practices, they have often had no access to the Talmud and no knowledge of the later feasts such as Purim and Chan
The relationship between Blacks of African Heritage and Jews has been sometimes difficult and often beautiful, but since the Exodus from Egypt, has rarely suffered the same level of difficulty of the Jewish Communities in Europe.
People of African Heritage have more often been positively informed and frequently inspired by Jewish history, particularly in the religious and political spheres.
It is easy to draw some parallels in the systematic oppression that both peoples have experienced. Many Jews have continued to live in Africa over the centuries. Historically, there are records of many more Jewish communities in Africa than has been recently recognised. That will be the topic for another, future newsletter... so please check back with us here for that story of the unknown African Jews, very soon.
In 2009 my first visit to the Holy Land, was attending a training course for British Clergy at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Judaism is the tap root of Christianity. Everywhere you go in Israel, the Bible comes alive.
I feel strangely at home in
Israel; a young, modern and vibrant nation thriving in this ancient landscape.
There are Jews from every continent, of very different skin tones and cultural
backgrounds. I noticed that in Israel it's OK to wave your hands when you talk!
Almost everyone has an opinion here! This is a democratic country; where there
are three Israelis, there are at least five different points of view.
The Holocaust Memorial is important to our understanding of the true evil of